behavior change, life in general, strategy

Inspirations favour the prepared mind (part 2)

Few weeks ago, I received an email inviting me to give a short talk on “the process of creating ideas, campaigns, or innovations”. I’m a bit baffled because I don’t see myself as an “idea creator”. I see myself more as a problem solver.

I’m elaborating the content of my talk in three posts. This is the second post, and it is about a new habit that gets us better at changing behaviour.


Most of marketing problems are about changing the way people behave. Nevertheless, when it comes to advertising, most of my clients focus on changing people’s beliefs or perceptions.

Why is this so? The saying “what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done” explains it. Measuring changes in perceptions is easy. Measuring changes in consumers’ buying behaviour is much more difficult —and it’s not the same with measuring fluctuations in sales.

It is hard to measure consumers’ actual buying behaviour in Indonesia. This is because to properly do so, marketers will need data from a longitudinal research that involves making consumers unfailingly register whatever stuff they buy within a period of time (at least for half a year). This is a complicated and expensive. There are not many marketing research agencies in Indonesia that offer this study to manufacturers; and there are not many manufacturers who subscribe to this service.

Enough with the digression. Let’s get back on the habit that gets us better at changing behaviour.

Second habit: remember the elephant

Like the previous post, this new habit will force us to leave the old habit that has been deeply ingrained. Let’s start with revisiting that old habit before we kick it off.

Most of us still believe that to change behaviour (e.g. buying Brand X more often instead of Brand A), we have to firstly change the relevant perceptions (Brand X cleans better with less effort than the cheaper Brand A), and then change the relevant feelings (from indifferent to reassured with Brand X).

This is evidenced by clients insisting on making ads “to educate the consumers” or “highlight the functional benefits” or to “include the logical persuasions”. But then again we still see plenty of people who smoke, or live sedentarily, or text while driving, or have astronomical credit card debt with no savings. Knowledge rarely turns into behaviour.

Let’s discard the old habit of thinking the linear link of “belief→ feeling → behaviour” . Instead, let’s start the new habit of remembering the elephant.

This habit comes from the framework written in the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Difficult by Dan and Chip Heath. What’s genius about this framework is the writers explain it clearly through a powerful metaphor: the rider and the elephant.

The rider represents deliberate thinking that is deep, extensive, elaborate, effortful, and thus exhausting (for example, deciding which mortgage to take). Yes, the rider represents the rational human with its advanced frontal cortex.

But the rider is tiny and weak compared to the huge and stark elephant. The elephant represents all the subconscious processes that are shallow, spontaneous, slapdash, effortless, and a default mode of how we all behave.

The old habit of thinking “belief→ feeling → behaviour” ignores the forceful existence of the elephant. This picture illustrates the rider and the elephant metaphor to understand human behaviour.

The rider and the elephant metaphor for changing behaviour. From Switch by Dan and Chip Heath.

The rider and the elephant metaphor for changing behaviour.
From Switch by Dan and Chip Heath.


Direct the Rider

Directing the rider successfully is to come up with a map that makes the rider feels it’s an easy to get to an clearly-defined place. It is about breaking down a long and abstract journey (“eat healthily”) into sets of short trips, each with a very clear destination that’s easy to visualise (“change full cream milk into 2% milk”).

There is a good example of a successful effort to change people’s behaviour from Indonesia. For the longest time, wen have been bombarded with propaganda to “preserve batik as our cultural heritage”. This poster aptly illustrates the point:


By aforlife from DevianArt.


Yet the significant change only took place when somebody or some institution started with a very clear and simple direction of “please wear batik to work on Fridays”. The lofty but unclear agenda of *preserving our cultural heritage” was turned into an attainable small request most people could follow easily.

A poster from Keluarga Mahasiswa ITB.

A poster from Keluarga Mahasiswa ITB.


Move The Elephant

Moving the elephant is about using emotions and social identity as the forces that compel the primal side in each of us.

Below is a video about using fanaticism towards a soccer club to boost the participation rate of organ donation. In Brazil, families of the deceased often will not authorise organ donations without written wills. This program overcame this barrier by practically offering an instant way to record the donor’s wish. This program managed to increase organ donation participation rate by 54% in a year.


Another example is a video to use how emotions are used to solve a real and dire problem: preventing children with cancers from quitting the painful chemotherapy process. I’m eagerly waiting for the report on the success rate of this program.


Shape The Path

Shaping the path is about tweaking the environment. We have the tendency to underestimate the importance of environment, while at the same time overestimate the personality factor, in influencing the way other people behave. It’s human, and it’s called fundamental attribution error.

Previously I have shown examples on ideas that tweak the environment, so it’s much easier to follow the prescribed behaviour, like registering oneself to be a bone marrow donor with a kit included in bandage pack (here), or creating an app that makes it impossible to print out a file (“save as .WWF, here).

Another famous example is how schools in New York City tried to improve the grade of students by giving them rewards in terms of talk-time and other content for mobile phones. The initial results were encouraging, unfortunately this program was discontinued due to lack of funding in 2008. This is the video.



On the next instalment I will talk about other little habits that prepare my mind, so I believe I am in a better position to catch inspirations. So stay in touch.

life in general, strategy

Inspirations favour the prepared mind (part 1)

Few weeks ago, I received an email inviting me to give a short talk on “the process of creating ideas, campaigns, or innovations”. I’m a bit baffled because I don’t see myself as an “idea creator”. I see myself more as a problem solver. 

I decided to talk about habits that help us get better at solving problems. I will elaborate the content of my talk in this blog, in three consecutive posts. The first one is about the habit of staying longer with the problem.


Photo: iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

I want to correct the thinking that creative problem solvers and innovators have the magical ability getting profound insights and magical inspirations all the time. Nobody who works in any creative commercial enterprises can can afford to hold on to this myth. Every project has schedules and deadlines, and nobody is allowed to take their own sweet time to wait for inspirations to strike.

Someone wise once said, “Chances favour the prepared mind” (it was actually Louis Pasteur, who discovered bacterial fermentation and vaccination). I want to steal from him. I posit that inspirations favour the prepared mind.

I’m not saying that insights and inspirations are not necessary in creative thinking. Obviously we need inspirations, from big eureka moments or little revelations that widen our views. But we can hike up our chance to catch inspirations by preparing our mind. We have to turn those preparations into habits. This is how we can be creative at any given time.

I want to share with you my habits when I work to solve problems. I hope you want to try adopting them. Those habits are not so difficult because I will show you the techniques an methods. What’s going to be harder is you must stop your old habits that have been deeply ingrained inside you.

First habit: stay longer with the problem

I have written before why this habit is important (here). To start this habit, we have to kick off those reflexes to immediately seek for solutions. Believe me, jumping into solutions is a hard habit to break. I still have to remind my colleagues to not do it.

Some people are reluctant to stay longer with the problem because they think it will paralyse them. They expect they will be overwhelmed by too many questions. Worry not: there are techniques that are easy to learn. These techniques or methods make staying longer with the problem a painless and fruitful effort.

The methods I use come from this short but very useful book, Problem Solving 101: A Small Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe. I have written before on why I highly recommend it here. In a very accessible way, the book explains the steps and the methods via simple stories and clear examples.

For example, Ken outlines the steps we take when solving a problem. Please notice that it’s only on step three that we start thinking of solutions, in the form of action plans. See below: 

Steps in solving problems.
From Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe.


Watanabe proposes many useful and practical tools that help us along the process. For example, here’s a yes-no diagram that helps us identify the root cause of the problem. In this example, the one who has a the problem is a school band who has held free rock concerts in their school on Saturdays. They want to have more people coming to their free concerts. See below.

A yes-no diagram to help us identify why there are not many people coming to see free rock concerts.   From Problem Solving 101: A Small Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe.

A yes-no diagram to help us identify the root cause of a problem.
From Problem Solving 101: A Small Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe.


Another tool is logic tree. This is useful to help us understand the situation, or to broaden our view to see possible solutions. Here’s an example of a logic tree used by a company that produces bottled spice, like bottled ground pepper.

A logic-tree to help us think about ways to increase the number of pepper that comes out of the bottle in one shake. From Problem Solving 101: A Small Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe.

A logic-tree to help us think about solutions.
From Problem Solving 101: A Small Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe.


I’ve mentioned before that some people fear they will be paralysed by so many questions. Watanabe gives us another tool that helps us to manage those questions and take us closer to the root cause. The tool is a simple table with columns of

  • “Issues /questions”
  • “Hypothesis : our guessed answer to each question
  • “Rationale”: we come up with that hypothesis
  • “Analysis/actions: what we will do to test our hypothesis
  • “Source of information”: where we will get that data or info to test our hypothesis.

See below for the example related to the low attendance in free rock concert problem.

Problem-solving design plan. From Problem Solving 101: A Small Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe.

Problem-solving design plan.
From Problem Solving 101: A Small Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe.

There are many more tools and techniques you can read in this invaluable book (go get this book, it’s truly worth the money and effort). But I hope you get the gist. With the right tools and techniques, staying longer with the problem is not going to be painful. So start the habit and use the tools and techniques.


That’s the first habit that prepares our mind to catch inspirations, and not just wait for them to strike. On the next post, I will talk about preparing our mind to solve problems related to changing the way people feel and behave. Watch this space. Yes, I really push myself to write in this blog more often.

life in general

Adakah cara yang “lebih benar” untuk berwisata?


Martin Parr, The Leaning Tower of Pisa. 1990.
Copyright Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

Akhir minggu kemarin (25-26 Mei 2013), lini masa Twitter ramai dengan komentar dan percakapan tentang bagaimana ibadah Waisak di Candi Borobudur diganggu oleh turis-turis. Beritanya bisa dilihat di
sini, misalnya. Ada juga tulisan di blog dari seorang peserta ibadah yang menceritakan kesedihan dan kekesalannya akan kejadian malam itu.

Seperti biasa, muncullah komentar yang membahas tingkah laku turis ini melalui pendekatan “mentalitas bangsa”, misalnya:

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 8.39.17 PM

Atau penjelasan seperti ini

Pemahaman saya sejauh ini tentang psikologi membuat saya percaya dalil:

 Behavior = ƒ(Personality, Environment).

Arti singkatnya, tingkah laku (“Behavior“) adalah fungsi dari faktor yang melekat dalam diri seseorang (“Personality”) seperti kepercayaan, sistem nilai, cara mengolah informasi, sifat; dan faktor eksternal dari lingkungan (“Environment”), baik fisik maupun non-fisik seperti kebudayaan, struktur sosial-ekonomi, hukum dan peraturan, sistem insentif, dan lain-lain.

Seringkali kita terlalu cepat untuk menjelaskan penyebab suatu tingkah laku hanya dengan melihat faktor Personality dan mengabaikan faktor Environment. Padahal peran faktor Environment sangat besar.

Contoh paling gampang adalah kita bisa membuat sebuah komunitas atau massa bertingkah laku berbeda dengan memodifikasi faktor lingkungan (misalnya peraturan, sistem insentif, pengawasan). Perubahan tingkah laku ini berlangsung tanpa harus mengubah faktor Personality.

Dalam membahas perilaku turis yang mengganggu ibadah Waisak, saya memilih tidak membahas soal “mentalitas” atau “pola pikir”. Saya akan memfokuskan pada faktor lingkungan, sebelum dan saat upacara berlangsung di Borobudur.

Saya curiga panitia tidak menyangka betapa besar minat turis untuk mengunjungi acara ini. Akibatnya, tidak sempat dibuat dan disebarkan aturan yang sangat jelas tentang apa yang boleh dan tidak boleh dilakukan, tidak dibuat demarkasi untuk turis, tidak sempat merekrut bala bantuan cukup yang bisa menertibkan pengunjung, dan kesalahan pengorganisasian lainnya.

Jika tahun depan panitia lebih siap, saya rasa kita bisa tetap menjaga kehikmatan ibadah Waisak buat umat Buddhis, tanpa menutup acara ini untuk turis. Bukankah tiap hari tetap banyak umat Katolik bisa tetap khusuk beribadah di St. Petrus Vatikan atau Notre Dame Paris walaupun dua gereja ini adalah tujuan wisata yang sangat populer?

Selain itu, harus diakui bagaimanapun juga upacara Waisak telah memberi rejeki buat penduduk di sekitar Borobudur.

Tapi apakah berwisata hanya sekedar masalah peraturan yang jelas dan ditegakkan dengan tegas di tujuan wisata? Apakah ada cara yang lebih “benar” dalam berwisata?


Di tengah ramainya kicauan tentang Waisak di Borobudur, ada satu komentar yang menarik perhatian saya:

Twit ini cukup eksplisit menyatakan bahwa cara yang “benar” menjadi wisatawan upacara Waisak di Borobudur adalah dengan ikut menghayati rasa damai –saya duga karena makna Waisak berkaitan dengan pesan kedamaian universal buat umat manusia.

Adakah cara yang “lebih benar” untuk menjadi pelancong, lebih dari sekedar menghargai aturan dan budaya di daerah tujuan wisata? Tidakkah “hargai aturan dan budaya di tempat kita berada” berlaku buat semua orang, terlepas ia sedang melancong atau tidak?

Kita mungkin pernah membaca kata-kata “bijak” semacam ini:

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”
—Paul Theroux.

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see. ”
—Gilbert K. Chesterton.

“The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes ‘sight-seeing.”
—Daniel J. Boorstin

Betulkah menjadi traveler lebih “terpuji” daripada menjadi turis? Apakah ada perbedaan yang penting yang bisa menjadi dasar penggolongan kasta pelancong?


Sesungguhnya pertanyaan ini sudah terngiang-ngiang di kepala saya semenjak 2 minggu yang lalu. Saya beruntung bisa berangkat ke Wina dan Praha dalam rangka outing trip kantor. Saya berangkat dengan perasaan was-was, bisakah saya menikmati perjalanan ini yang harus dilakukan dalam rombongan besar pacakaged tour?

Sebetulnya perjalanan kemarin bukanlah kali pertama saya mengikuti paket tur berombongan. Waktu saya berusia 10 tahun, orangtua saya mengajak saya dan kakak keliling Eropa dalam sebuah paket tur. Saat itu majalah tempat ibu saya bekerja menyelenggarakan paket tur bersama pembaca, dan beliau harus menyelia kegiatan ini. Karena saat itu pas liburan sekolah, berangkatlah kami sekeluarga. Dalam ingatan saya, perjalanan ini lumayan berisi kenangan menyenangkan, walau konteksnya selalu bersama keluarga dan bukan dalam rombongan tur.

Saya tumbuh menjadi orang yang senang berwisata independen, pergi bersama paling banyak bersama satu orang lain kawan perjalanan (biasanya pacar saat itu). Saya selalu bersemangat saat merencanakan perjalanan: mencari tahu apa yang menyenangkan untuk dilakukan atau disantap di suatu tujuan, museum atau pameran mana yang perlu dikunjungi. Sesenang-senangnya saya membuat rencana perjalanan, saya ingin hari-hari saya saat mengunjungi suatu tempat berlangsung bebas dan fleksibel.

Saya gelisah karena berwisata dengan paket tur berombongan menghilangkan  kemandirian dan kebebasan, yang buat saya sungguh berharga. Saya senang melihat diri saya sebagai traveler berpengalaman, yang pergi ke suatu tempat setelah mempelajari tempat itu sebelumnya; yang pergi karena didorong rasa ingin tahu dan semangat untuk menemukan pengalaman baru (discovery); untuk mencari pengalaman tak terduga yang indah (beautiful serendipity); yang mengejar pengayaan-diri dalam perjalanan.

Saya sering memandang rendah rombongan turis yang keluar dari bis besar untuk sibuk berfoto dan berburu suvenir, tanpa benar-benar ingin tahu tentang sejarah atau keistimewaan dari tempat yang ia jadikan latar belakang fotonya.

Selain itu, saya gelisah karena saya tahu saya merasa sangat lelah batin jika saya menghabiskan waktu lama dalam kelompok yang besar. Energi saya bangkit lagi justru kalau saya sendirian. Tapi karena biaya perjalanan ini ditanggung kantor dan saya belum pernah ke Praha, saya tetap ikut.

Pada awal perjalanan saya sering kesal. Bisa dibilang rombongan tidak pernah berangkat tepat waktu karena nampaknya kebiasaan jam karet di Jakarta tidak ditinggal. Akibatnya, waktu yang sudah dialokasikan ke suatu tempat harus dipotong, dan kunjungan ke tempat itu harus dipersingkat.

Saya juga jengkel sekaligus heran karena kebanyakan peserta dalam rombongan tidak mendengarkan tuturan pemandu lokal. Mereka sibuk mengobrol satu sama lain, atau   berfoto dalam berbagai pose. Buat mereka, tempat wisata tidak lebih adalah backdrop untuk foto diri atau bersama teman-teman.

Sampai suatu titik saya memutuskan untuk mengamati mereka, kolega saya yang nampak tidak keberatan bahkan menikmati melancong dalam rombongan paket tur. Saya memutuskan bahwa mengamati mereka dengan seksama sebagai bagian penting dari perjalanan. Saya berusaha keras agar pengamatan saya ini tidak dibiaskan oleh cara saya berwisata. Dan di situlah saya mendapatkan apa yang saya cari: penemuan dan pengalaman baru.


Saya percaya berwisata adalah bagian dari proyek manusia untuk menjadi lebih bahagia (ulasan yang lebih mendalam bisa dibaca di buku The Art of Travel oleh Alain de Botton). Jika ada banyak jalan menuju kebahagiaan dan tiap manusia bebas memilih selama tidak merugikan pihak lain, maka tidak bisa diterima jika ada satu jalan yang benar untuk melancong.

Dari pengamatan saya melihat bahwa buat kolega saya peserta paket tur rombongan, berwisata adalah proyek penting untuk membuat memori visual. Kebahagiaan dari berwisata terutama didapat dari saat memori visual itu dibagi dengan orang lain (keluarga, teman, kenalan). Munculnya smartphone dan media sosial membuat proyek ini semakin mudah dan instan, sekaligus menambah pihak yang diajak berbagi.

Apakah berbagi memori visual ini suatu tujuan akhir atau untuk mencapai tujuan lain, seperti misalnya status? Bisa ya, dan bisa juga tidak: pengamatan saya berhenti di saat pembuatan memori visual tersebut berlangsung, tidak berlanjut pada saat berbagi. Saya berintuisi bahwa peningkatan status belum tentu lebih penting dari penguatan ikatan sosial yang dihasilkan dari berbagi memori visual itu.

Memori visual terutama hadir dalam bentuk foto dan suvenir.Ini menjelaskan mengapa berfoto adalah bagian utama dan esensial dalam kegiatan mengunjungi suatu tempat, lebih penting daripada menghayati “rasa” berada di tempat itu, atau memahami apa yang membuatnya istimewa. Ini menjelaskan mengapa kebanyakan foto selalu merekam diri, baik sendirian maupun bersama orang-orang lain. Ini menjelaskan mengapa penyelenggara tur berusaha cukup keras untuk memastikan foto kelompok, lengkap dengan spanduk, berjalan lancar.

Karena tujuan utama (walau mungkin tidak disadari sepenuhnya) dalam berwisata adalah membuat memori visual, maka hal-hal seperti penemuan dan pengalaman baru menjadi sekunder. Di sinilah mengapa paket tur menjadi sangat menarik: ia bisa menekan “ongkos” dari penemuan dan pengalaman baru, yakni ketidaknyamanan menghadapi hal asing dan trial-error. Selain itu, paket tur rombongan juga menawarkan companionship dan potensi dukungan sosial, sesuatu yang menjadi lebih penting di tempat asing. 

Apakah orang Indonesia kebanyakan akan menjadi pelancong pencari memori visual? Saya tidak tahu. Apa yang kita lihat dari betapa bersemangatnya turis mengambil foto saat upacara Waisak di Borobudur berlangsung konsisten dengan pengamatan ini. Sekali lagi, untuk menjamin hak umat Buddha beribadah dengan hikmat, yang perlu dilakukan adalah dengan mengarahkan semangat membuat memori visual ini. Ini jauh lebih realistis daripada menganjurkan turis mengubah tujuan utama proyek wisatanya, apalagi “mentalitas” nya.


Kembali ke pertanyaan di judul tulisan panjang ini: adakah cara yang “lebih benar” untuk berwisata? Betulkah menjadi traveler lebih benar daripada menjadi turis? Saya kira tidak. Pembedaan (atau pertentangan) antara traveler dan turis adalah masalah estetis, bukan etis. Dan snob adalah saat kita merendahkan orang lain berdasarkan pertimbangan estetis.

Untuk menutup:

“Disdaining tourists is the last permitted snobbery, a coded way of distancing oneself from the uncultured classes.”
—Anthony Peregrine, “Are you a tourist or a traveller?” 

“Have you noticed how tourists are other people?”
—Richard Donkin, “Tourists R Us”

LGBT, life in general

Selamat Idul Fitri, teman LGBT Muslim sekalian

Selamat Idul Fitri, teman LGBT Muslim sekalian.

Saya tulus berharap hari ini adalah hari yang penuh kebahagiaan buat kalian.

Saya berharap hari ini kalian bisa menghabiskan waktu yang menyenangkan bersama keluarga.

Saya percaya sebagian kecil dari kita bisa merayakan hari raya ini bersama semua yang mereka cintai: keluarga dan pasangan. Jika anda adalah bagian dari kelompok beruntung ini, bersyukurlah.

Namun saya paham bahwa sebagian besar dari kita harus menjalani hari yang harusnya penuh kebahagiaan ini dengan kecemasan, kekesalan, dan kepura-puraan.

Ya, pertanyaan-pertanyaan itu –atau bahkan setengah desakan– memang menjengkelkan.
Gunjingan dan cemooh mereka tentang LGBT lain memang menusuk hati.
Dan harapan kita untuk suatu saat bisa mengumpulkan semua yang kita sayangi tanpa kecuali memang bisa menyesakkan hati.

Bukan niat saya untuk mengajarkan anda tentang apa yang harus dilakukan. Saya percaya setiap orang akan menemukan cara yang terbaik, dengan jalannya sendiri.

Saya hanya ingin mengingatkan, di menit-menit penuh rasa takut, pedih, dan sepi, jangan pernah lupa bahwa anda tidak sendirian.

Kita punya kita.
Kita punya sahabat dan keluarga yang bukan seperti kita, tapi menerima kita dengan setara.
Anda mungkin tidak bisa melihat kami besok dan lusa, tapi yakinlah:
You’re not alone, and you’ll never be.
And let’s watch each other’s back, let’s stay united, and we’ll make sure it gets better.

Terima kasih.

life in general

Apa yang salah dengan kultwit?

A note to my readers who don’t speak Indonesian (probably there are less than 6 of you out there, but I respect you): I’m sorry this time I have to write in the language you don’t understand. But I have to do it because firstly I suppose kultwit (means lecturing via tweets) is mostly an Indonesian phenomenon —at least I’ve never seen it done by non-Indonesian people in my timeline. Secondly, I attempt to reach a wider audience in Indonesia regarding this topic, and I suspect using English deters this. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Di Indonesia mungkin susah menemukan pengguna tetap Twitter yang tidak kenal kultwit, yakni rentetan twit yang membahas satu topik. Tujuan kultwit bisa untuk mengajukan suatu pemikiran (misalnya “industri film di Indonesia masih pekat diwarnai praktek monopoli”), melukiskan kembali suatu hal atau peristiwa (“gejolak dalam KPK di balik penetapan Miranda Gultom sebagai tersangka”), atau mengubah pendapat orang lain (“mengapa sebaiknya Anda tidak lagi mendukung rencana mempertahankan subsidi BBM”).

Tujuan satu kultwit dengan yang lain bisa berbeda, tapi formatnya selalu sama. Topiknya cukup kompleks, sehingga jika ditulis utuh akan mencakup lebih dari satu alinea. Topik ini lalu dicacah menjadi banyak kalimat pendek dalam rentetan twit; umumnya satu twit memuat satu sampai dua kalimat. Twit-twit ini harus dibaca berurutan (di timeline berarti dari bawah ke atas) untuk bisa memahami alur pikiran si penulis.

Sudah cukup sering saya mengutarakan keberatan saya akan kultwit, lewat Twitter maupun dalam pergaulan di dunia nyata. Beberapa hari yang lalu ada yang bertanya pada saya: jika saya tidak suka kultwit, mengapa saya tidak unfollow saja mereka yang sering melakukannya? Pertanyaan ini cukup masuk akal. Kalau saya tidak suka film horor, sudah cukup jika saya tidak menontonnya, bukan?

Jawaban saya atas pertanyaan ini adalah, bagi saya kultwit lebih dari sekedar selera. Bagi saya, kultwit adalah sebuah peluang yang terlewatkan (missed opportunity). Kultwit itu sepadan dengan slide PowerPoint yang buruk: keduanya adalah contoh kegagalan mencapai tujuan komunikasi gara-gara penyalahgunaan format.

Kultwit bisa disejajarkan dengan slide presentasi yang buruk dan inefektif

Semua orang yang menulis di ruang terbuka mulai dengan delusi bahwa topik yang mereka sampaikan layak mendapat perhatian orang lain. Beberapa penulis bahkan (merasa) punya misi untuk memberi pencerahan bagi orang lain. Sungguh sayang jika misi itu gagal karena mereka keliru memilih “kendaraan” (medium), dan ngotot memaksa “muatan” (pesan) bisa diangkut oleh “kendaraan” yang salah itu.

Saya menduga pelaku kultwit memilih Twitter karena mereka berharap meraih audiens yang lebih luas. Bisa jadi mereka mengaitkan besarnya audiens dengan jumlah follower mereka. Alasan lainnya, mereka menginginkan audiens yang responsif, dan bagi mereka Twitter bisa memberikan hal itu.

Kultwit memang sepertinya menjajikan dampak yang luas. Sayangnya dampak luas ini nyaris mustahil tercapai karena format Twitter menyebabkan audiens sulit mencerna pemikiran si penulis. Mengapa?

Pertama, tulisan di media cetak atau blog memberi kita kebebasan menentukan waktu dan kecepatan baca sesuai kemauan sendiri. Kebebasan ini hilang dalam Twitter. Audiens dipaksa mencerna informasi dalam waktu dan kecepatan yang nyaman buat si penceramah tapi belum tentu pas buat dirinya.

Kedua, karena satu twit akan segera ditumpuk dengan twit-twit lain, pembaca akan kerap mengalami distraksi.

Ketiga, isi kultwit akan ditampung oleh pembaca dalam memori jangka pendek. Kapasitas memori jangka pendek manusia selalu terbatas. Penelitian psikologi kognitif menunjukkan bahwa kapasitas optimal memori jangka pendek kita adalah 7±2 chunk informasi. Kultwit yang terdiri lebih dari 9 twit akan mustahil tertanam dalam ingatan si penerima.

Keempat, Twitter memaksa penulis memecah satu butir pikiran (dalam artikel biasa umumnya mencakup satu paragraf) menjadi beberapa kalimat pendek yang tidak mungkin hadir berbarengan. Padahal seringkali kita harus lebih dahulu secara simultan melihat keseluruhan elemen yang ada sebelum bisa mengenali pola yang utuh. Ibaratnya, kita harus lebih dulu melihat seluruh tanaman dan benda lain dalam sebuah area, sebelum kita bisa mengenalinya sebagai sebuah taman bergaya Jepang.

Kelima, kalaupun kita mau menunggu sampai satu kultwit selesai, untuk membacanya dari awal sampai akhir di timeline kita harus mulai dari bawah ke atas. Ini bertentangan dengan cara kita memproses informasi dari bentuk tulisan pada umumnya: dari atas ke bawah. Akibatnya, kita membutuhkan usaha mental yang lebih untuk mengolah isi kultwit, apalagi jika mencakup lebih dari 9 twit.

Twitter tidak hanya membuat pembaca susah mengolah isi kultwit. Karena Twitter mirip gelombang yang datang dan pergi, informasi yang dibawanya menjadi sulit dihadirkan kembali (retrieve) melalui penelusuran (search) di Internet. Padahal, kalau kita percaya pemikiran kita cukup penting untuk diperhatikan saat ini, tentunya itu akan cukup penting juga untuk diperhatikan di lain waktu, bukan?

Daripada “mengencerkan” (dumbing down) pemikiran anda dan memaksakannya agar muat di Twitter, lebih baik gunakan medium dan format yang lebih menghargai waktu audiens anda. Ada beberapa jalan: menulis artikel di blog, meng-upload slideshow di SlideShare atau dokumen di Scribb, atau yang paling praktis: menggunakan fasilitas Twitwall.

Selanjutnya, anda bisa menggunakan Twitter untuk menyebarkan link materi tersebut. Jika materi anda memang menarik dan relevan, akan mudah bagi anda untuk menulis umpan linknya (link-bait). Jika materi anda memang solid, akan banyak orang yang me-RT twit itu, atau meng-twit materi yang anda buat.

Kultwit bisa dianalogikan dengan dosen yang bicaranya terpotong-potong tapi terus berteriak memberi kuliah di klub malam yang hingar-bingar. Mari bertanya ke diri sendiri: kalau kita sungguh berniat membuka pikiran atau menggerakkan hati orang lain, apakah kita tidak punya cara yang lebih ampuh selain berteriak ceramah di tempat yang hiruk-pikuk? Tidakkah lebih cerdas jika kita melakukannya di ruang yang tenang, di waktu yang mereka pilih sendiri?

Atau mungkin, ternyata tujuan pemberi kultwit yang sesungguhnya adalah untuk menarik perhatian belaka, bukannya untuk membuka pikiran dan hati orang lain? Kalau benar, bukankah kultwit adalah bentuk komunikasi yang bertujuan untuk memuaskan diri-sendiri (self-serving) tapi dilakukan dengan cara menginterupsi orang lain?

Apa pendapat anda, pembaca terhormat?

from my bookshelves, life in general

Books that help me think better

I’m not the kind of person whom you’d describe as the walking sunshine who radiates joy everywhere she goes. For me, the closest thing to spreading happiness around is recommending books to others.

I like reading, and some books give me utter pleasure from learning new stuff or from being engulfed in good stories. Infecting others with this pleasure only doubles my happiness. Thus, from time to time, I will make lists of my book recommendations here.

I will kick off with books that help me think better. Thinking skills are fluid instead of fixed. We can upgrade them by exercising and challenging our mind. Similarly, if we stop training our mind, our thinking skills will be depleted.

I’m paid to think (besides churning out clever-looking presentation slides). In my job, thinking consists of analyzing situations and information, reading data and research critically, framing and defining problems, coming up with possible solutions, building and countering arguments —also navigating agency’s or client’s politics, but that’s for another post later on.

These are the books that I find very helpful in improving those skills, in no particular order.

Books that help me become a better thinker

Are Your Lights On? How to Figure Out What The Problem Really Is
by Donald C. Gausse and Gerald M. Weinberg

This is the book about problem definition. If you make money by developing strategies or solving any kind of problems, you are foolish to skip it.

From it, I learn about how tricky trying to define a problem is —you can come up with many possible definitions from one single non-ideal situation. It shows me we can never be sure we have a correct problem definition, even after the problem has been solved. It reminds me to not mistake a solution method for a problem definition, especially if it’s my own method that I sell for a living. It warns me that if I can’t think at least three things that might be wrong with my problem definition, that means I don’t really understand the problem.

The style of the book is very casual. You won’t feel like you’re reading a book written by a prominent computer scientist and a system analyst. You’ll read fables, little stories written in a tongue-in-cheek manner, and eventually you’ll get the moral of them. It reminds me of Aesop’s fables or Zen tales.

I have finished reading the books several times, yet I feel I still can learn more. I always find new things every time I reread it.

Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe
If the above-mentioned book focuses on problem definition, this one covers the whole gamut of activities in problem solving: defining the problem, figuring out its root cause and eliminating alternate explanations, and developing the action plans and making priorities (remember the ease of implementation vs. impact diagram that I discussed earlier?).

Although the title says the book is for smart people, it is actually very accessible. It’s written as if it’s a storybook for children, and that’s the beauty of it. Just like what the author writes, nobody is too old to learn how to solve problems. You will learn something, even if you’re already a seasoned strategist or solution engineer. Even if you don’t make a living by solving other people’s problems, you’ll find this book beneficial for your personal life.

Rapid Problem Solving with Post-it Notes by David Staker
What I find really valuable from this book is less on the problem solving heuristics, thus the book will be much more useful if you have read Problem Solving 101. But the tips and tricks on using Post-it are great for me personally for several reasons. Firstly, using sticky notes helps me visualize the relationships between the elements of a situation, and it helps my understanding. Secondly, using sticky notes makes me more physically active when thinking and this keeps me energized. Thirdly, using sticky notes can be turned into activities in workshops or brainstorming sessions.

I still use sticky notes when I’m thinking, and especially when I’m writing presentations. But nowadays I also use the apps for virtual sticky notes. For Chrome web app, I use one that has a creatively unambitious name: Sticky Notes. For iPad, I use the one with a very cliché name, iBrainstorm.

How to Lie With Statistics by Darrel Huff
This is not a statistics book. This is a book about statistical reasoning. This book does not cover any statistical formulas.You don’t need to use calculator at all to follow it. Instead, it guides us on how think critically and draw logically-sound conclusions by applying really basic principles of statistic, like sampling bias, average, charts and graphs, index, and correlations.

Just like the first two books that I discuss earlier, How to Lie With Statistics is easy to digest. The discussion always starts from real news, and the author often adds more colorful stories (like the chapter about how going to college ‘dramatically decrease’ women’s chance to get hitched).

The book is a classic and has been around for ages, so you have to bear with the vintage examples (Kinsey report, for example) and antiquated illustrations. However, the lesson is still very relevant today and years ahead, as long as people use statistics as tools for persuasions.

I have to admit that this book is more relevant for my non-professional life, like when having conversations with others or when reading news. Unfortunately the quality of news in Indonesian media has become so pathetic, they rarely bother to include statistical evidence in reporting. This makes the following two books become more useful.

A Rulebook for Arguments by Anthony Weston
Initially I thought the book was mainly useful for building arguments. Nevertheless, it turns out to be as helpful for scrutinizing arguments. The best way to spot bad arguments is to be really fluent in making good ones.

This book covers the fundamentals, starting from premises vs. conclusions, generalizations, analogies, judging sources’ credibility, causations vs. correlations, modus ponens and tollens, syllogisms, and of course logical fallacies.

This book reads more like a how-to guide. Each chapter is very short, yet we’ll see many clear examples. If you like Sherlock Holmes, you’ll be having a good time with them.

If you are a strategist or want to be one, you can’t afford to skip this book. If you are a senior communication planner and you haven’t read this, well, I honestly think you do a disservice to your profession.

If I had the power, I would make all high school students in Indonesia attend a semester of mandatory course of Introduction to Critical Thinking, in which the translated versions of Problem Solving 101 and A Rulebook for Arguments would be taught as the textbooks.

Thank You For Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About The Art of Persuasion by Jay Heinrich
This book is dangerous. It contains probably all the persuasion tactics ever known to human beings, described in an accessible and entertaining manner. This book will give you all the ammunition if you want to be a manipulator par excellence. Yet it trains you to be more resistant against others’ persuasion tactics.

If you are in the business to sway people’s opinions, by all means read this book. Reading this book will be more useful than learning hypnotics.

I sometimes find the book a bit chatty, although I understand that its selling point is the examples. If you get overwhelmed, there’s always the summary in the appendix.

Now I’ve shared my recommendations, dear readers, would you be kind enough to advise me on books of similar vein?

LGBT, life in general

More of victims, less of fighters? On how Indonesian pro-LGBT movies portraying lesbians

LGBT causes in Indonesia are very dear to my heart. I believe that all human beings are born equal in dignity and rights, and I happen to be an out and proud lesbian living in this country.

Therefore I’m excited that two Indonesian films about LGBT stories and lives have just been released recently. The first one is Sanubari Jakarta (The Heartstrings of Jakarta), an omnibus that consists of 10 short movies. Most of the short movies feature gay characters, but we have 3 with lesbian main characters.

The second film is Children of Srikandi. In it, there are 8 short movies, all directed by queer women (this is how they explain themselves), all reflecting their life experiences. This film has been screened in many festivals abroad, one of which is the Berlin Film Festival. Srikandi will also be shown in other LGBT film festivals around the world as well.

Both movies are trying to advance the LGBT agenda. Heartstrings is produced by the Kresna Duta Foundation whose mission is to educate public about the importance of supporting minorities’ equality and rights. The producers of Heartstrings say they consulted the LGBT activists to ensure there would be no misunderstanding and stigmatization about the subjects and the characters.

Meanwhile, Srikandi aims to “humanize the diversity of ways of life in Indonesia”. It wants to “challenge and deconstruct stereotypes about LGBT and Muslim” (see their website). Srikandi began with a workshop, lead by two indie filmmakers from Germany, amongst several queer women. During the workshop, they were facilitated to express themselves by filming their life experiences.

I strongly believe that no LGBT person should live in fear or shame. I posit that pop culture and especially film can contribute a lot to make this vision a reality.  This is why I wholeheartedly salute the effort from both parties. I came to watch both movies, wanting so much to like them.

But too bad I couldn’t.

I have been agonizing if I should keep my opinions to myself, and just be grateful that efforts have been made. Then I’m reminded that promoting LGBT rights is about changing not only laws, but also people’s minds and hearts. If I really care about the cause, I should help make the efforts gain a wider impact. To gain a wider impact, pop culture or movies that are pro-LGBT must be more emotionally engaging to a wider audience, irrespective of their sexual orientations. So if I really want to see less LGBT youth having to endure bigotry and hatred, I have to say how these movies could be better.


My main problem with Heartstrings is the way it portrays lesbian characters and lesbian relationships as victims. In two shorts from Heartstrings (“Terhubung” or “Connected” and “Pembalut” or “Sanitary napkin”), we see lesbian relationships got cut short because one party had to comply with parents’ orders to get married. There is no depiction of how the characters even consider resisting this pressure.Granted, each short film runs 10 minutes so space is an issue, but why do both shorts focus on the surrender?

Let’s contrast this with the other shorts in Heartstrings about gay characters (“Menanti warna” or “Waiting for the color” is the best and it’s really heartwarming without being sappy). None of them concludes at being the victim of family or social pressure. I truly wonder why this is so.

There’s another lesbian-themed short in Heartstrings titled “Lumba-lumba” (“Dolphins”). It tells a story of the beginning of an affair between a kindergarten teacher and her pupil’s mother. The characters are not portrayed as victims here, but the story is so underdeveloped, it has to resort to a coincidence to make it more interesting.


It’s hard for me to be engaged with all the stories in Srikandi. Firstly, there are so many shots or scenes that I find irrelevant and distracting —especially the pointless middle part where they show low-res videos about people talking in focus groups or interviews. Maybe those visuals were meant to be some sort of mise-en-scène, but I fail to see how they add into to the story or the point they want to put forward. It’s like the visuals are there because they are more about the directors expressing themselves, rather than inviting the viewers to be involved in the stories.

Those visuals in Srikandi remind me of the time when I was doing an internship as a psychology student, when I studied group art therapy. In group art therapy, everyone is expected to express his/her own feelings and face his/her own problems by making art work –normally paintings. The process is meant to be therapeutic for the participants, but it doesn’t render the painting as an art work.

Secondly, I fail to get to relate deeper with the characters cum storytellers. For me, all of them stay at a very superficial level in each segment.  Yes, I know each director has only 10 minutes to tell her story or point of view. Ideally, this should urge her to immediately open up herself and share her intimate feeling or deeply personal point of view.

If “Hello, world” director is trying to tell her story about growing up wanting to be a boy, I’m sure her segment will be much more involving if she right away brings  alive what she feels about this seemingly-unattainable longing (instead of showing still shots of food and sandals). If “No labels” director is trying to say how confusing or restrictive labels amongst LBT women can be, then quickly invite the viewers into this bewilderment or suffocation (instead of taking us to the mall).  If “A verse” director wants to tell her story about how she finds love not in her own family but in unexpected places, then please take us on that journey (instead of showing her typical day is, complete with a girlfriend who kisses her hand before parting).

Thirdly, like the impression I get from Heartsrtings, I fail to see the characters in Srikandi as fighters. Don’t get me wrong, no character in Srikandi asks for your pity. But I feel the stories are more about them trying to dance around the repressive social norms.

One of the directors of Srikandi writes that “our goal is to reach out to many LBT women in Indonesia who are afraid to come forward or feel that they are alone”. Yes, maybe watching Srikandi makes those LBT women feel they are not alone. But after that, what do the directors want to make them feel? Will this movie make them less afraid to come forward? Will it trigger them to rethink about their own circumstances? I’m afraid not.

From Srikandi’s log line (“For the first time, queer Indonesian women are breaking the code of silence”), I gather that its main ambition is to give opportunities to the filmmakers to tell their life stories and points of view. Srikandi is claimed as “the first film by queer women about queer women from Indonesia”.  If the emphasis is on the filmmakers’ self-expressions, perhaps thinking about the audience’s emotional responses becomes a secondary concern.

So what’s the point of “breaking the code of silence” if the main concern is not to connect more deeply with the Indonesian LBT audience? Perhaps Srikandi’s main audience is not the Indonesian queer women, but juries of international festivals from around the world. After all, the combo of Indonesian folk-tale (the shadow puppet), Islam, and LGBT is probably very irresistible for committees of LGBT film festival around the world. If this is the case (and I truly hope I’m wrong), I honestly think it’s a missed opportunity.

I really want to see more Indonesian movies that are sympathetic to LGBT cause. But at the end of the day, if we believe that promoting LGBT rights is not just about changing laws but people’s minds and hearts, we really should be more serious about engaging emotionally with our local audience here in Indonesia.