[punchline to come]
The point will be that the impact of the punch(line) is always proportional to the quality of the set-up. the process of creating a context which can then be changed rapidly. Maximum shock and surprise--both pleasurable and painful--results from something unanticipated, being hit from an unexpected angle, the sudden appearance of something previously hidden. Set-up relies on our tendency is to see everything within "frames"--mental models, norms formed through previous experience--which we can use to our advantage by:
- Improving our awareness of frames -- developing situational awareness, heightening sensitivity to others' state of mind and intentions, gaining emotional control to facilitate this and avoiding racing up the ladder of inference (Ladder of Inference) too quickly.
- Projecting a certain frame which we control; this could be a real frame or an intentionally false frame, concealing true intentions, sending your opponent up that ladder.
- Developing the ability to accelerate rapidly, holding the tension that comes from setting-up and using this to hit; impact is the realization that something has happened after it has occurred.
As a sporting example, the classic boxing match "The Rumble in the Jungle" saw Mohammed Ali in his sunset years confront the 25-year-old George Foreman, who was 220 pounds of mean muscle in peak form. Ali set the fight up from the start, goading his opponent in the media, then continued in the ring, using an initial strategy that stirred up the hornets nest that was Foreman, taunting him during clinches. Ali then let his enraged opponent completely punch himself out while he lay back on the ropes, letting Foreman do his worst. In the heat of the moment Foreman succumbed to the frame that Ali created, believing Ali was tired and incapable of defending himself. Ali then seized opportunity in the 8th round, rapidly changing frame by exploding out of the ropes, surprising Foreman and hitting him squarely on the jaw with an impact that sent him spiraling to the floor. As Eddie Daniels, an eminent British Shukokai karate fighter, states "open the door, tempt them in and then slam it in their faces....".
This illustrates the power of frames; how we can be oblivious to the fact we have been framed, especially when emotionally engaged, as our mental models--those pre-defined pathways of thought--are narrowed further by our emotions.
One simple means of framing is to push hard initially in a different direction to our intentions. If we want to tell someone what to do, we have to set-up by first listening intently; the more we want to learn, the more we need to teach; in the workplace, the more we want to retain our employees, the more we have to let them know that they have other choices, that they have freedom. Each action has an opposite and equal reaction, allowing those who understand the concept of set-up to take advantage of a situation. To push a bigger guy out of the door, it is much easier to push him hard in the opposite direction until he resists forcefully, and then switch direction rapidly and let him fly out of the exit using his own momentum.
Getting back to the joke, there's two fish in a tank. One says to the other "you drive, I'll man the guns..."
As a bonus, here's an interesting clip of Alex Harvey performing the title to this blog: