It was the evening of the following Wednesday. Anjali and Panya were sitting around the table in their cluttered consulting room. The streets of the town were nearly deserted, and a late-evening silence filled the empty shop.
When Anjali returned, Panya was there waiting.
‘Panya will be there waiting,’ thought Anjali as she struggled through the backdoor of the building, her keys clattering to the floor as the door closed behind her.
‘I wanted to hear how it all went,’ said Panya. ‘You have worked hard for this, and we should not let these moments pass us by.’
Anjali laid her work file on the back table with the same care she would have laid down one of the Four Vedas. She took a seat at the table, which was still covered with the evidence of last-minute adjustments from the previous evening.
‘The room where we met the Danish Chairman,’ she said with some fatigue lining her face, ‘was a panelled office sitting in one corner of the factory, so that its windows looked down onto the town in two directions.’
Anjali paused for a moment, and then seemed to catch the required thread.
‘I felt comfortable as soon as we entered. The design appeared simple, but that simplicity allowed the decorative elements – implicit also in the layout of the furnishing – to shine through. This was not about simplicity, this was about clearing any distraction and allowing the core theme to communicate. It was not the negation of detail; it was the mechanism which would ensure a fine focus on the detail that was being emphasised.
The power of influence-by-design is about understanding the thought patterns of your audience and changing your approach, in such a manner that your communication targets those patterns. It is the action of the virus, adapting itself to the structures it must connect with. I could sense it, Panya. The cut and the fine embroidery of the Factory Manager’s suit, and the way the symbols were carried through the materials that ornamented his presentation. I could feel everything was right. I knew it would give an inevitability to the outcome he was predicting through his presentation.’
Anjali’s string of impressions became tangled, and Panya slowed her down by asking, ‘This is the ornamentation on your jacket also?’
‘You cannot sit around the table,’ Anjali replied, ‘without being part of the performance. I only thought of that yesterday.’
Anjali looked across the room and saw again the crisis of twenty-four hours ago.
‘I can take such trouble over the line of a stitch, and then I miss something as obvious as that. The same cut and embroidery motive is reflected in this jacket. I was struggling to see the movement of the needle by the time I had the last stitch in place.’
‘We were in the Chairman’s office of the weaving mill I think?’ prompted Panya. Anjali looked back towards her.
‘Panya is like the river,’ she thought. ‘She carries everything with her. Everything that falls into her influence is conveyed towards some outcome that Panya has in mind for it.’
Panya waited quietly until, in time and inevitably, Anjali continued.
‘I was even more convinced that the approach was right as we began to follow the formalities that were woven through the whole meeting. We sat around drinking sharp coffee from simple cups and everything on the table coordinated with them: the bottles of water on a carved wooden tray that ran down the centre: the table markers that indicated each person’s place. There were four pictures on the wall, each with an intensity of colour and form. If you visualise a picture carved out of ice, then imagine that these are the counterparts to that picture.’
‘How was the Factory Manager’s presentation?’ asked Panya. ‘He does not communicate easily I think.’
‘It was not the Factory Manager who arrived at our counter last week who opened the presentation. It was someone with confidence, who knew that each word was sharpened and pushed through with that efficiency that flows from good design. As he gestured, the fabric of the garments captured the mood that was required. The Factory Manager created the words and responded to the questions, but alongside that was the message that I had stitched together; a message of quiet capability, of steady advance to a certain end.
Fashion was hard at work in the boardroom. My design of course embroidered the truth; but in a way that made the truth more credible rather than any distraction from that truth.
The Chairman nods as he follows the thread of inevitability that was stitched through every heading, picture and chart.
The design soaks away his uncertainties, and the nature of the Chairman’s questions changed. The spotlight moved away from whether the Factory Manager’s plan could be accomplished, and began to shine instead on how it might be implemented. The design was accepted; and now what mattered was how the finishing touches would be applied.
The meeting came towards its conclusion. There were a few ‘alterations-for-form’ that the Chairman added like a stamp of Danish approval.
After a sprinkling of more formalities, the Factory Manager showed me out through the deserted offices. He handed me a cheque for the work I had done, saying that he would not want me to be out of pocket, as there was further work to be done before the presentation to the full Board of Directors. I am to ring him at seven thirty tomorrow morning for his thoughts.’
Panya rose and squeezed gently Anjali’s shoulders together.
‘Well done, Anjali.’
It was an action that Anjali would never have expected of Panya.
‘This is good work,’ she said.
Anjali was quiet for a while.
Panya waited, for waiting was what was required at that moment.
‘The next meeting will be more formal,’ said Anjali eventually. ‘The Factory Manager and his Financial Manager will be presenting. I know that I need to dress them with a discreetly altered design. There was much that was right, but there are things that will not work with a more divided audience.’
‘What are your thoughts? What changes do you need, Anjali?’
‘I think the dress needs to speak of machine precision. The Danish directors need to feel the complete commitment to act in the interests of their authority. But I also want a reference to this valley and its history. The people who will run the Wetledale Weaving Mill know the ways of the valley. They can be relied upon to take-in-hand the change that is needed, but they also have the unique strength of knowing those things that need to stay the same.’
Panya waited until she was sure that Anjali had finished. She did not want to interrupt Anjali’s moment of reflection. Reflecting was a good thing for Anjali to do at that moment.
Then Panya said, ‘I bought a small bottle of sparkling wine. It is a very special occasion. I thought we should celebrate in the local way. It is a small token and a recognition of something of significance that we have achieved.’
Panya opened the bottle and poured a precise amount into each glass.
‘It is perverse,’ Panya added. ‘But I just felt that this was no time to tempt fate, you see.’
‘Look at this cheque, Panya,’ said Anjali, as her effervescent white wine leaped against the rim of its glass. ‘We earned more from this one presentation than we could earn in two weeks of repairs and alterations.’