Hope Is Not A Strategy
In a recent post I talked about trying to lose weight. Well, it sucks.
Because unfortunately, it turns out you cannot just imagine your way to slimness. If you actually do throw out your scale, eat two avocados at a time, end your night with a pack of Moon Cheese and refuse to do any exercise, you will become an ever-expanding slob.
Just like the experts tell you, losing weight involves a check-in with reality. It is indeed about more vegetables and less calories; getting up and moving around regularly; and yes, you do have to weigh yourself at least once a week.
I could have been more successful months ago, but first I had to get over all the stuff I wanted to believe instead.
The same thing is true about branding. So many times - really, so many times I can't even begin to count them - it's been obvious what needs to happen on the client side, what things they need to do differently.
And so you tell them.
But the resistance they kick up, the excuses they make, are unbelievable.
The process of arguing about things we can see in front of our eyes is so stressful, so contentious, and so utterly unsatisfying.
When the client doesn't let you do your job and you are reduced to listening to their tortured rationalizations, it's like trying to exorcise a huge, stubborn, multi-clawed demon from inside the belly of a little girl.
In terms of friendships - we've all had one who chose to go down a destructive path. There is that conversation where you say, I'm worried about you, and they tell you, you're overthinking things, I'm fiiiine, worry about your own life instead.
Or we've had family members with serious issues. Dangerous, life-threatening habits that threaten to literally take them off this planet.
But G-d forbid if you say anything.
Or, oddly, it can be just the opposite, they ask for your advice just as a token gesture, and they still go on to do what they want.
Hiring a consultant is so often perceived as the magical be-all and end-all. Whatever name they go by - also coach, also crisis communications support, you name it and there is a professional out there - all are fancy ways of saying, "You've got the brains to help us think things through."
But the client has the brains. Most of the conclusions these people offer are reducible to basic logic.
What we are really asking for help with, I think, is the titanic challenge of moving our mental models - individually and as an organizational culture - into a space where more adaptive, logical behavior becomes possible.
We are asking for help with learning.
With opening our minds up, just as we were open-minded as children.
Because as adults, our sense of what can and cannot work gets more and more rigid the more years we have under our belts.
Now I know what you're thinking: You've heard all this before, not once but many, many times.
But thoughts are not enough, are they? If they fail to make an impact. If we still haven't learned from our own primary mistake, which is the refusal to live in reality, or at least to learn what that reality is and adapt ourselves accordingly.
In the future things will change apace with the pervasiveness of metrics that are always-on, always-worn, always informing. Like the FitBit tells you about your steps and heart rate, "pulse" surveys advise about what employees are thinking, Google Alerts tells you what the web is saying about any subject you identify, cars and home appliances monitor themselves for worn parts, and homes signal alerts silently when an intruder comes near.
The measurement possibilities are endless.
And we'll buy them, because we have such a hard time talking straight to ourselves, and no money to burn on shelf-ware consulting.
The truth is, the only thing that makes people change is fear - because as a species we will always take stasis over risking disaster.
Accordingly, when we see the risks created by our own behavior, that's a powerful motivator to do better by a factor of many.
So it's nice to talk about consensus-driving, collaboration practices, knowledge-sharing: All of that is well and good.
But knowing that your plane is going to crash?
That is a powerful reason to strap on your parachute - and jump.
All opinions my own. Photo by the U.S. Army via Flickr (Creative Commons)