Be Biased

Her words have been reverberating in my head for a couple of weeks now. “Be Biased

I heard her talk, “Translating Science into Poetry“, at the first Write the Docs conference earlier this month. She did the unpredictable – applied principles from poetry to science. Daniya Kamran was her name.  I attended the conference to deliver Sketchnotes: Communicating Complex Ideas Quickly but benefitted most from listening.

She covered 6 techniques used in poetry that were applicable in science. One of those principles was “Bias”. There was a poem that she used to illustrate this principle. I’ve forgotten the name. Something about a glorious morning. Not a neutral, scientific dew-pointed morning, but a morning to make you dance. “Be biased” she said. People crave an opinion, they want an expert, and they don’t want to have to do all the thinking required to come up with that opinion. Be a shortcut for them.

Be Biased, Sketchnote from Daniya Kamran's talk Translating Science into Poetry, Write the Docs Conference, by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013
Be Biased, Sketchnote from Daniya Kamran’s talk Translating Science into Poetry, Write the Docs Conference, by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

I was guilty of what she charged – being professionally objective and….neutral.  I could see that I had withheld my greatest gift, my uniquely developed opinion from my experience and study. And it was making my life much less interesting.

Yet not so in photography. With a camera, it is impossible not to have a point of view. You chose what you point the camera at and you chose how to compose the frame. The photographs I like most express personal vision through a unique voice.  Two quick examples:

  • Aaron Ansarov thinks Portuguese Man O’ Wars are beautiful. You will too when you see his work.
  • Natan Dvir thinks NYC billboards overwhelm people. You will see what he sees when you see his work

in her article on AppWhisperer titled, “What is Vision, What is Voice” Cindy Patrick, an award-winning iPhoneographer and fine artist, writes:

All the artists and photographers I admire have one thing in common. They each have a unique style. 

She goes on to say that style has two components: what YOU see (vision) and how YOU communicate that (voice). Vision and voice together are a bias, a point of view.

Since this awakening to the value of bias, I’ve opined more generously, without strings attached. I’ve discovered that the short path to being influential is to express an opinion (I believe “X” because of 1, 2 and 3) and then to have a dialogue. I am both influencer and influenced. Be Biased. Have Vision and Voice.

Thank you Daniya.

Amy Brown did a fantastic job of capturing notes from her talk. You can see my sketchnotes here and here.

If you can find the video of her talk please let me know. I’d like to add it to this post.

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  1. Beautiful write-up, Jennifer. I found Daniya’s presentation inspiring, too. I especially liked her statement, “Words are intervention.”

    As for the videos, the conference organizers say they’ll post the rest when they’re available. The ones posted so far are here: (I have just tweeted a query to @nextdayvideo to ask when they expect the rest of the videos to be up. Watch the #writethedocs stream to see if anyone answers.)

    Thanks for the lovely post!


  2. Jennifer, this couldn’t come at a better time! I’ve spent the past 15 years upholding professional auditing standards that insist on objectivity and independence in delivering facts to my company’s Board. I’ve dutifully honed my skills in precision questioning. Now, however, I need to be a solutions-delivering business leader in a broader capacity. It’s HARD to unlearn 15 years of interviewing everyone in the room, particularly when experience has shown me that the greatest obstacle to learning the truth is believing you already know it. I hope it doesn’t take me another 15 years to figure out how to balance these disciplines!


    • Amy, thanks so much for responding! I’m glad the timing is so good as you transition from one role to another. Taking a risk to propose a solution to deliver is opening a dialogue that leverages the very precision questioning skills that you honed to clarify customer needs. I can see you in complete confidence in a customer meeting saying “I propose X solution because of your needs 1, 2, and 3.” Congratulations on the broader role! I know you will be fantastic and grow in comfort as well.


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