Solutions for Exam: Creating Context

Thanks for taking the time to take the Exam on the topic Creating Context. Here are the solutions.

What is the typical order for the elements within an introduction?   
Trigger, Question – or “CTQ” – is the typical order.

Who has the primary responsibility for creating clarity?

The communicator does. Make things easy for your audience by creating clarity for them.

What is the best test to apply to see whether your question is connected sufficiently tightly to the rest of your introduction?
Ask a colleague to read the first two elements of your introduction and check whether they think that only one question naturally follows.

Creating which part of your communication should occupy a disproportionate amount of time?
Clarifying the context, trigger and question. This can take much longer than you might expect but is key to creating a compelling story.

What do you want to happen in the reader's mind between the first two elements of a standard introduction?
Nothing, there should be a natural flow from one to the next.

An introduction must start with “context”.
False. You can change the order within an introduction for dramatic effect. The key thing is to ensure the elements are all there – context, trigger and question – to ensure the audience has enough context to make sense of what’s coming.

An introduction can contain controversial information.
True. However, it must be known to the audience. You must avoid raising information in the CTQ that requires support and data. Otherwise you will sidetrack your audience. If it’s critical to the story and not already known to the audience, it belongs in the body of the story.

‘T’ stands for “trigger”.
True. The “trigger” is the thing that changed and gave rise to the question you are addressing. If the Trigger did not exist you would not be communicating. The challenge is to ensure the Context, Trigger and Question work together.

You can have multiple questions in the introduction.
False. You must only have one question in the Introduction. Sometimes your audience asks you to address multiple questions or issues in a document. In that instance the question would group those together and state, for example, “Have you been able to address the issues raised on X?” or “Are there any particular issues that we must address as Show stoppers?”

A good introduction passes the 30 second test.
True. There is no rule of logic that states this but a good introduction provides the reader or audience with enough information to understand where the topic came from, and your view on the topic and the structure of what will come – quickly!

What is the maximum number of words you should have in your governing idea?
Try to keep your governing idea to 25 words or less.

Why is it important to keep your governing idea short?
All of these reasons provide a good motivation for keeping your governing idea short: to make it easier for the reader to understand you, to push you to tighten your thinking, and to encourage you to be more articulate.

A governing idea overarches the whole story when …
It synthesises or summarises all of the ideas within the body of the story

The governing idea describes the way in which a set of information is important to a particular audience
True. The governing idea does more than just summarise the information that is there, it provides insight about the value of that information for a particular audience.

It is ideal to have two, or even three, governing ideas for any one story

False. The discipline of pushing yourself to clarify the central purpose for your communication and then to articulate this in one sentence is hugely powerful for both you and your audience.

Which of these is the most technically correct and useful governing idea?
“Black should seek ABC approval for DEF development by the end of December 2013” is the most technically correct and useful. The other two are incomplete and do not provide enough substance to be helpful. They are unlikely to overarch a complete argument while also being powerful and supportable.

What is wrong with this introduction?Context: Karratha Co management has been concerned these past months about the impact of the falling Australian Dollar on its profits
Trigger: The Australian Dollar fell by 3 cents versus the US dollar this week alone
Question: When will the  Australian Dollar start rising again against the US Dollar?

Solution: Both the first and the third option are correct: The question does not flow from the trigger and the audience could contrive many quetions from this context and trigger flow.

The second point, that the trigger is either informaton that the audience already knows or should know is irrelevant to the question as the audience should know the information that is inside both the context and the trigger.

It would read better this way:

Context: Karratha Co management has been concerned these past months about the impact of the falling Australian Dollar on its profits
Trigger: The Australian Dollar fell by 3 cents versus the US dollar this week alone, and threatens to fall further over coming weeks.
Question: How can Karratha Co protect its future profits against the consequences of a falling Australian Dollar?

What is wrong with this introduction?

Context: Wallaby World has experienced a significant incrase in visitor numbers recently
Trigger: While exciting, the increase in visitor numbers has led management to be concerned about Wallaby World's ability to cope with such large numbers of visitors
Question: What steps can Wallaby World take to incrase its ability to entertain such large numbers of visitors?

Solution: There is nothing wrong with this introduction: It works. There could be some word smithing done to ensure the language is consistent from one element to the next (eg ‘ability to entertain' versus ‘capacity') but conceptually it is sound.

  • The information is material that it is reasonable to assume that the audience – in this case the management – would know
  • The flow from the context to the trigger is tight
  • The link between the trigger and the question is also tight

What is wrong with this introduction?

Context: We have received 1,200 applications from people who would like to work with us this week alone
Trigger: Last week we had an incredibly successful launch for our new Kookaburar App
Question: Why have these people applied to us?

Solution: All of the above: The question does not flow from the trigger, the context contains specific information that the audience is unlikely to know, and the information in the trigger would be better placed in the context.

It would read much better this way:

Context: Last week we had an incredibly successful launch for our new Kookaburra App.
Trigger: It appears that this launch has raised our profile and led to a lot of people sending us job applications.
Question: How do we manage the increase in the number of job applications?