Quote of the Week Award Winner

Posted 05.07.2010

Quotes There was an interesting article in the Washington Post this week about an invention developed by a United Methodist pastor in Salem, VA named Ken Dupin. After thinking about the dilemma of seniors who need extended care but don’t want to move to a nursing home, Dupin has come up with a prototype for a 300 square foot technology equipped home that can be set up in a backyard. He calls his invention the MEDcottage.  (You can see a graphic of the structure here.) It’s pretty amazing what Dupin has done with his imagination and limited resources. He’s put a team together to build the prototypes, gotten funding to start a company to build the cottages and gotten the Virginia state legislature to approve a bill that allows the structures to be placed in back yards under certain conditions.

And here is where the quote of the week award winner comes into the picture.  As you might imagine, public officials in high population density areas like Northern Virginia are concerned about cottages springing up in the back yards of quarter acre lots and turning zoning laws upside down. They’re also concerned about the misuse of the cottages. Here’s how the quote of the week award winner, Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay sums up his concerns:

“Is it a good idea to throw people into a storage container and put them in your back yard?  This is the granny pod.  What’s next?  The college dropout pod?”

Even though I can see both sides of the MEDCottage issue, I have to confess that I laughed out loud when I read McKay’s quote. It’s a classic in terms of framing an issue in a punchy, memorable, definable way. If you’re a leader who needs to communicate your points clearly (and are there any leaders who don’t?), there are a few things you can learn from McKay’s quote:

It’s visual:  McKay came up with a memorable quote by coming up with an analogy – the storage container – that most everyone has some experience with. That makes it easy to picture what he’s talking about – even if that picture really isn’t accurate.

It grabs you: It doesn’t get much more powerful than “throw people into a storage container and put them in your back yard.” 

It’s emotional:  “The college dropout pod” taps into every middle aged parent’s fear that their kids or their neighbors’ kids are moving back in. Of course, the bigger fear McKay is tapping is that your kids are going to make you live in a storage pod when you retire.

If you read the entire article, you’ll realize that it’s not as simple as McKay makes it sound.  His quote really isn’t a fair representation of the issue. But, you have to hand it to him, he certainly was effective in defining the debate on his terms.

What opportunities do you have to increase your influence by punching up your communications approach?