focus and consistent (business version)

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pause thin focus“If parallel lines do not meet it is not because meet they cannot, but because they have other things to do.”

Vladimir Nabokov

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“Looking back, I didn’t lose my way.

I never knew where I was going in the first place.”

William Chapman

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Ok.

While in personal life there is an inordinately high external value <people looking in on you & the business> on focus and consistency, in the business world this value fluctuates. And, unfortunately, in the business world there is no real ‘code’ on when to be consistent and when to be inconsistent <therefore it can sometimes be a crap shoot … and you pay dearly if you bet wrong …>.

Regardless. Suffice it to say, adaptability, which is this generation’s path to success, is inevitably tied to some inconsistent behavior.

Uhm.

Inconsistency. That is what change is all about. Focus is a 5 lane highway, not a one lane highway, and includes some spot over a horizon which you cannot see nor can you clearly define as in ‘see this beautiful picture? This is your destination.” The horizon focus is a less tangible destination … it is sometimes just a thought in mind.

Whew. Yup. I just typed that.

And that may seem contrarian to all the business folk waving their hands in the air in panic over some disconnected fragmented world in which ‘we need to make it simple to forge our way thru this chaotic world.’

Look. To forge your way thru a chaotic world you will get bludgeoned to death if you treat it like a straight line gauntlet. Yes, doing it that way is truly running a gauntlet <note: and a lot of people get bloodied running a gauntlet and some do die>.

In a chaotic world in order to effectively adapt you actually have to be … well … ‘serpentine.’ <In-Laws movie reference to the old folk>.

What’s worse?

This doesn’t just pertain to tactics but even strategy has to be adaptable <a tinge of inconsistency>.

roi adapt greenA lack of adaptability is foolish. Or maybe let’s just say the being consistent for the sake of being consistent is foolish:

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http://brucemctague.com/foolish-consistency

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Now.

Just because I like to bitch about the ‘branding world’ I would like to take a moment and rant a little about how this “inconsistency is bad” discussion has infiltrated the business world to such an extent that a bunch of ‘experts’ have flocked to companies under the nomenclature of ‘brand consistency experts.’ Their whole premise and reason for being is that those of us in business don’t understand how to run a business and sell and do it in a way that doesn’t really create ongoing success <or highest brand value>. Or they adamantly state that we need an unchanging “how to” guide so that we know what we are supposed to do with ‘brand.’

Look.

I am all for insuring that a business develops a core value <and brand> value proposition and I am all for aligning an organization around that position but … please … please don’t tell me if I do something ‘inconsistent’ I am going to detract from my ‘brand.’

Please … please … don’t tell me about stringent consistency rules necessary to ‘build a brand’ … a ‘brand’ which theoretically only exists in a mind  and crafted in the minds of someone else.

Please … please … don’t confuse focus with consistency.

Consistency in today’s business world is much more complex … and much more sensible … than how it was thought of in the past. In the ‘old days’ you placed a stake in the ground, danced around it and then held it up like ‘capture the flag’ daring anyone to come up the hill and capture it … and wave it so people could see it.consistently communicate

It was unmoving and you gave ground grudgingly.

In today’s world we act more sensibly — we actually do, watch, observe and react/adapt. This means the ‘brand consistency’ is often more a measure of how one adapts and responds than it does in the initial stimulus.

I say that because experts will come in discussing <pontificating> the most basic level of brand consistency – single logo is always used in a similar way, a single typeface used with particular guidelines on typography, and consistent colors tied to similar design styles. If they stopped there, while I would wonder why I paid them anything, at least I could argue with … well … nothing.

But then the experts keep blabbing.

They start encouraging guidelines that doesn’t make every piece of marketing material look like a member of the same family but instead, under the guise of consistency, starts all looking the same. While the argument is that the brand has its own unique “look” which enables a consumer to recognize it as belonging to that brand proposition and distinguish it from competing brands … it also has a nasty habit of becoming … well … bland.

Uninteresting.

I imagine the discussion gets tough with ‘those who demand consistency’ <be safe> because what really matters to maintain true consistency is the intangible not tangible — not how it looks but rather the main brand proposition … the focus on who you are and what you offer.

I admit. Brand consistency can be a tricky topic. Anyone can argue, and should, that consistency done well creates a great advantage … one called “recognition”. That recognition can have attitudes & attributes attached to it that are negative or positive <for some reason all the brand consistency experts never talk about that> but suffice it to say … at least you are getting in the heuristic game. Recognition is a nice feature <has value> to your brand because, frankly, people don’t really like ‘new.’ We like the sound of new and we like it conceptually, but we dislike actually spending money on it. We associate risk to new.

Regardless.

Consistency is used as a bludgeon with businesses under the guise that if you don’t do it a consumer could be ‘confused’ or they could mistake your brand with a competing brand … and that means potentially losing customers. Once again. The experts oddly never bring up the counter discussion … that some inconsistency creates a richer brand and a more interesting ‘consumer relationship proposition.’

Effective consistency in today’s business world is one in which not all is seen but yet everything is connected in some way.

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“The moment of truth, the sudden emergence of a new insight, is an act of intuition.  Such intuitions give the appearance of miraculous flashes, or short-circuits of reasoning.

In fact they may be likened to an immersed chain, of which only the beginning and the end are visible above the surface of consciousness. The diver vanishes at one end of the chain and comes up at the other end, guided by invisible links.”

Arthur Koestler

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Guardians of effective consistency need to see the unseen and connect the inconsistency in some form or fashion to a horizon point.

Deliverers of effective consistency <let’s call us ‘the everyday working schmucks’> are kind of screwed in today’s business world. You can clearly have focus and your consistency may be less clear to those around you.

If I have two major gripes in today’s business world it is that we, leaders & managers, need to:

–      Better recognize the unseen portions of consistency <the focus within the inconsistency>

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–      Better accept the unseen portions of consistency <the focus within the inconsistency>

Inconsistency and consistency <embracing both> is a skill & an art. I would note embracing some inconsistency and yet maintaining some consistency is kind of the key to being successful in business.

Yeah.

That sounds difficult … it sounds too complex … but it is truth. Unfortunately business is complex … and business needs consistency … and inconsistency. They are two parallel paths and I would argue you only run into problems when they blend into one.

That said. If they are truly two parallel paths, what is the glue?

Focus.

That’s what holds the two parallel lines together.

But that’s probably an entirely different post.

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Written by Bruce