Enlightened Conflict

contrarian customer-centric thoughts

October 10th, 2017
free-bad-advice-business-blog-contrarian

………. another Bruce contrarian thought piece …….

 

——

 

‘To prosper soundly in business, you must satisfy not only your customers, but you must lay yourself out to satisfy also the men who make your product and the men who sell it.’

 

——

Harry Bassett

 

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“We are all manufacturers – making good, making trouble or making excuses. “

 

——

HV Adolt

 

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So.

 

compete head hurtsI have probably had to think about, and talk about, the business concept of “customer centric” more in the past month or so than I have had to do in the past decade or so.

 

I have seen so many customer-centric presentations over the years that made my head hurt I am surprised my head hasn’t exploded yet.

 

Don’t ask me why but the oft-horridly interpreted and often mis-implemented concept is making a comeback.

 

Customer centric, simplistically, is the concept of creating a positive customer experience at every point of the pre sale, sale and post-sale.

 

It’s a word we’ve been using for decades <dates back to direct marketing in the 1960s & largely credited to a marketing guy named Lester Wunderman> and most of us in business don’t really think too much about it because we think it is kind of an obvious ‘given’ in business.

 

The problem is that customer-centric has been mangled to a point where we actually have to figure out some wacky ways to define it <most people use it in the sense of putting the customer at the center of everything that is done>.

Frankly, I’ve never met a business person who said their company wasn’t customer-centric.

 

Everyone talks the talk <and have convinced themselves they actually are>.

Well.

I imagine the topic keeps coming up because research with customers keeps telling these business people convinced they are customer centric that … well … they actually are not.

customer experience delivery gap Bain-and-Company 2005

 

The most famous of the debunkers is Bain and Company who shared this enlightened graph back in 2005:

 

 

 

It showcases the delivery gap between how customers perceive customer service and/or customer experience and how executives perceive the performance of their organization in that context.

 

 

Suffice it to say … that gap, which can be scarily extreme, debunks the myth of customer centric in practice when a company simply looks in a mirror and says “wow I’m good looking.”

 

Here is where contrarian Bruce steps into this game.

 

Most business people sincerely want to make customers strategically important to how they go about their business, but they also know what they see from most “customer centric experts’ is bullshit.

 

Therefore, they do the best they can and know that … well … theory is difficult to pragmatically, effectively, implement.

 

Here is where I differ from most of the customer centric experts:

 

  • The most important letter in customer centric is “I.”

 

legacy learn imagine hope mctague“I” as in “what I am good at” and “what I can actually do really frickin’ well” and as in “what is my Inner truth.”

 

Oops.

 

None of that is “what does my customer want.”

 

Look.

 

I never suggest ignoring the customer but I do suggest that before you ever sit down and talk about any customer centric things philosophically, and practically, you better be sure you know what you are good at, what you can actually do and what are the ‘truths’ <good & bad> of your own organization.

 

Most experts talk about “customer satisfaction” and I talk about thinking of the customer as someone with ongoing annoyance interspersed with occasional boredom and indifference.

 

Whew.

Now that sounds tough for any business person out there <and slightly depressing>.

 

But I tend to believe rather than try and build some rosy view most businesses should face … well … reality.

 

The reality is that once you establish customers SHOULD have high(er) expectations they are bound to go largely unmet.

 

Sorry.

That’s truth.

 

That is an unfortunate truth because the majority of customer centric practices choose to try and establish their own “best” to be judged by and … uh oh … they rarely actually keep up with the actual best of the best <because that “isn’t our positioning or what we are about” or because “oh, that is not our industry” or they simply just cannot match the best of the best>.

 

Setting high expectations means meeting the expectations of “customers” who will define everything by … well … EVERYTHING they encounter & experience.

A B2B customer will start thinking “experience” based on how the Starbucks barista treats them or how the Apple online assistance rep treats them.

 

Yup.irritation indifference

 

If you follow much of the customer centric bullshit being fed you, you will end up facing well informed customers who will be in a perpetual state of indifference and/or irritation.

 

  • Indifference will hit those customer centric practices that customers know are underperforming, and that they can avoid due to sufficient availability of the best of the best. If you’re working for one of those underperforming customer centric practices, the scary thing is not just selling less (or nothing). It’s that indifferent customers will stop being forgiving; they will stop being cooperative and giving you feedback on how to be more like other, better performing competitors. They’ll just leave and never return, without telling you why.

 

  • Perpetual irritation is just as bad: this will occur when customers are forced to buy from an underperforming customer centric practice, due to limited or no availability of what they already know is the best of the best.

 

 

In this light, pay special attention to fake loyalty and postponed purchases:

 

 

  • Fake loyalty: customers will continue to purchase from underperforming customer centric practices if the ‘real thing’ isn’t available. To the underperforming customer centric practices, all may seem quiet on the western front, until the best of the best suddenly does become available. Good examples of fake loyalty can be found in the airline industry: millions of frequent flyers around the world know that Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines and Emirates offer a superior experience, but since these airlines don’t fly on all routes, customers have no choice but to fly with subpar airlines now or then, or all of the time. Count on them to vote with their wallets every time new routes are added by these ‘best of the best’ carriers, even if they’ve never flown with them before.

 

 

  • Postponing purchases: some ‘best of the best’ customer centric practices like Apple actually manage to indirectly convince customers to postpone certain purchases. Many customers would rather wait for the iPhone or MacBook Air to become available, than to buy a new phone or laptop.

 

So … what should someone do?

 

The power of “I.”

 

inner truth brand position - Copy

….. Bruce’s consumer version of Inner Truth ………

Let me start with a Brucism — I have not found a lot of successful businesses that suck at everything.

In other words … if you have had some success, particularly if you have had some sustained success, it is likely you have <a> some significant expertise in something and <b> pleased some customers in some ways.

 

I am relentless on having businesses find their Inner Truth. It is often a difficult discussion <because it means admitting you are not good at everything> but by finding, isolating an embracing your business Inner Truth it permits the business to find its value core.

Once you find your value core you are able to insure you foster the attitudes & behaviors that feed into that value equation.

In addition, it insures the business leverages off of that foundation for any new ideas or “asks” of the organization itself with regard to new behaviors and decisions.

 

I have said this before and I assume I will say it a gazillion times again … “stop wishing you were something else and start loving who you are.”

That’s sounds like some bullshit Life coaching advice but the truth is more businesses, especially the ones who start discussing customer centric philosophy, should embrace this advice.

 

To be fair <before I begin my constructive enlightening rant> … the foundational aim for any customer centric practices has been and remains the same as always … to express singularities which consistently distinguish the offering of products and services.

 

And within these singularities … or distinctness … people will seek values, leadership, assurance, clarity … and personality <or character>. Maybe better said … some promise.

 

 

Growing a customer centric practices means it has to fulfill a clear promise. Promises are simple and complex. But suffice it to say, in this case, you make a promise and deliver upon it. Simple as that.

 

Here are some basic steps simplify <or at least clarify> some things that make up the foundation blocks for growing the customer centric practices based on “the power of I”:

 

company assessment

The first step in growing a customer centric practices is to assess the customer centric practices ‘parent’ <the organization itself>. There are several methods for obtaining this information from the end-users but suffice it to say that if you don’t know your company <culture, belief system, aspirations> you will never rear your customer centric practices properly. Never has the quote “be true to thineself’ ever rung more true.

 

good and bad research pepsi

research

Whether you think you need it or not … do some ongoing research.

Research will not only provide qualitative information from key stakeholders, including internal and external customers and influencers, but also flesh out the raw concept that resides in the vision.

The number of interviews will vary according to the typical number of end-users that would have an opinion about your company’s image as well as those ‘inside’ who have an image of what you do well.

The total number of potential end-users may be very small in b2b compared to a consumer product such as toothpaste but suffice it to say you seek to find the gaps & non-gaps of expertise between the organization and end users.

You are seeking some consistent feedback … so you hear the same feedback over and over.

The information collected from the survey is the foundation on which your customer centric practices platform will be established. You may find that once all the results are summarized, the information is very much in-sync with your organization’s internal perception of itself.

 

<note: don’t fool yourself into believing the exercise was a waste of time or a worthwhile effort in this situation … it is not only a sanity check but it also alleviates a lot of second guessing at a later date and plays a significant role in aligning everyone on what matters>.

 

 

Anyway.shared intentions lead people

 

In my experience … 90% of most customer centric discussions that businesses are faced with will begin with the customer.

 

That is the wrong place to begin.

 

Everything begins, and ends, with who you are and what your expertise is and what you can actually deliver. Beyond that … well … customer centric is worthless if you don’t get that right and accept, and embrace, that.

 

 

 

 

Which leads me to the next thing most customer centric experts never tell you <and I am fairly sure most of them don’t think about>.

 

  • Accepting Unevenness.

 

Unevenness?

What do I mean?

customer centric model

 

Well.

 

 

It seems like almost every customer centric discussion seems to incorporate some circle, or some 360degree view, in which you envelop a customer with all the love <functional and emotional> they need to create the utmost satisfaction and undying loyalty.

 

Unfortunately that is just theoretical bullshit because reality is just not that neat.

 

Just as there is no such thing as a well-rounded person there is no well-rounded business in the reality of … well … the real business world.

 

Most customer centric bullshit suggests you need to not only protect yourself on all fronts but also ‘project yourself’ on all fronts.

 

This is crazy.

 

Businesses don’t build themselves that way. Shit. People don’t build themselves that way. You are good at some things and not a good on others.

 

That said … the underlying absurdity in most customer centric modeling is in its suggestion of ‘evenness.’

customer centric learning concept knowledge ignorance

 

The traditional customer centric circle diagram concept suggests you push everyone out toward what they don’t know <boundary of ignorance>.

 

However.

 

Enlightenment, and gaining knowledge to overcome ignorance, is just not that neat.

In fact … it is frustratingly un-neat.

 

Frustrating in that every time you learn something … ignorance still remains … outside your existing knowledge base. And this translates into a state of being perpetually dissatisfied <or the glass is never completely full with knowledge> which obviously can be either encouraging, or discouraging, with a person’s attitude to continue learning.

 

Businesses consistently attempt to fulfill their role in this ‘customer centric process’ by focusing attention on the inside of the circle and keeping everyone carefully inside the boundaries. They do this under the guise of “company consistency.”

 

I imagine the good news is that this helps keep employees from falling off the edge into irrelevant material & learning <and it insures all employees gain knowledge in a logical order> but it also, negatively, impedes upon <a> the way most individuals gain knowledge (which is they follow what interests them) & <b> any knowledge or learning that could be attained outside the sphere of consistency.

 

But here is the really bad news.

 

Organizations are not neat round circles of knowledge. Why? Unfortunately, whether you like it or not, organizations are made up of people, not concepts or robots.

 

As I first wrote about back in 2010  <and have spoken on the topic a number of times> the truth about people is that they become more expert and informed on certain topics at the expense of others. The well rounded circle that might have characterized the “perfect customer centric organization” needs to be replaced by … well … reality.

 

circle of knowledge customer centric learn expertise

The reality of any organization is one of a profile of an expert <or passion on a topic> in some particular domain, and not others, and therefore you will never end up with a perfect circle but rather an ellipse or some wacky trapezoid <or something>, in other words, the circle of knowledge & expertise of any business has inconsistent edges/boundaries.

 

 

 

What this means is that organizations are more like uneven spikey boundaries of expertise & knowledge organisms.

Thinking about your organization with regard to attempting to implement some customer centric concepts will help a business better understand their learning flaws, and learning challenges, but maybe more importantly … better understand their areas of expertise.

 

I say all that because you invariably need to grow your customer centric practices … well … unevenly.

 

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“In short, not only are things not what they seem, they are not even what they are called!”

 

———

Francisco de Quevedo

 

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Lastly <leveraging my last thought off of the unevenness point>.

 

In a hypercritical world <online critiquing driven world> 360degree perfection is a fool’s errand … and, frankly, impossible.flawed and still worthy optimal new people best

 

The more successful path to being the best you can be is … well … be the best you can be on the things you know you can actually be the best you can be day after day after day.

This builds value and believability.

 

Unfortunately most customer-centric gurus start this discussion in the wrong place.

They almost always begin by identifying “weaknesses” or “where we need to improve/be better”. In other words … they begin with what is not an inherent expertise, or something the employees apparently don’t particularly want to do, and make a decision to invest energy attempting to make the organization … well … something they are not naturally.

 

Unfortunately most customer-centric gurus start this discussion in the wrong place.

Customer centric discussions far too often focuses solely on those pesky demanding customers <remember indifference, irritation and unrealistic expectations>. In other words. You are likely to be chasing perpetually dissatisfied, or indifferent until they are dissatisfied, people.

 

That is crazy. Absurd.

 

The better way to be the best customer centric organization is actually to identify what the company does best, that increases customer satisfaction, and say “how can we make our best better” <so we can ‘own’ that expertise>.

 

Some people may read this as “settling.” Or if they want to be harsher suggest that I am stating something ‘lesser than’ a best customer service focused organization.

 

I would tell these ‘some people’ I am a pragmatist and have a tendency to focus on the truths of reality.

 

What do I mean?

 

ideas break the mold new think conformLet’s face it.

 

In the past a company <or their customer centric practices> could get away with not performing at its peak on some things.  Or maybe taking a day off performance wise.

You could because customers didn’t experience full transparency of the best, the cheapest, the first, the most original or the most relevant.

 

Well.

 

That’s all over.

 

And things are bound to get even more radically transparent. I wrote about this years ago and called it “the expectation economy.” http://brucemctague.com/expectations-as-an-economy   Reality dictates you focus on the few things you can master and be an expertise on, offer expectations on those, don’t overpromise on others <even if competitors do> and be ‘customer centric’ by being authentically honest where you are consistently okay and authentically set expectations where you can deliver upon a ‘customer centric promise’ day in and day out.

Reality dictate your customer centric philosophy comes to life in an uneven pattern which actually can stand under the scrutiny of spotlight criticism.

 

In the end.

 

Let me go back to the most important letter in customer centric is “I.”

In this case it is “ideas.”

 

Ideas are the new currency in business, any business, including the service business. If you have a business focused solely on “making the customer happy” you are on a fool’s errand. In today’s interconnected world expectations <and what makes a customer happy> are driven not by your competition nor any realistically relevant industry benchmark … but rather by whatever that customer has uncovered anywhere in the world to establish a benchmark.

If you and your business try to ‘follow the customer expectation’ one-by-one … well … one will quickly become a ‘none’ <as in out of business>.

 

Regardless.

 

Suffice it to say if you are not in the business of generating new ideas to refresh your ‘customer centricity’ you are not competing in the same world as the rest of the businesses out there.

 

I end today’s thought on customer centric with that last one sentence paragraph because inherent in almost any customer centric discussion is NOT any discussion on ideas but rather “satisfaction.”

 

Satisfaction, at its core as a concept, is about “reaction.” In other words, if I am seeking to increase customer satisfaction I therefore seek ways to understand how I can do it <from them> and … well … do it.

 

Ideas are proactive.

 

And maybe that is the most important word, and thought, in this entire diatribe – proactive. 90% of the customer centric presentations I have ever seen have dripped with ‘reactiveness’ … reacting to what customers want in order to make them happy & satisfied <assuming your ultimate value is driven somehow by effective reactiveness>.

 

This makes my head explode.value timeline

 

Reactive value is the lowest value you can achieve.

Conversely.

Proactive value offers you the highest value you can achieve.

 

I will not argue that an effective customer centric organization has to have some good reactive mechanisms in place to show responsiveness to needs but I will argue with any customer centric expert who stops there. True customer centric business is beating the customer to the spot – with ideas, solutions and service.

That is a proactive model. And that is what maximizes value to a customer, breeds real loyalty and … well … insures the business itself constantly pushes out on its own boundaries of ignorance by increasing its circle off knowledge.

 

Anyway.

 

What I do know … or am 90% sure … is that you will not hear or read any of this from the traditional customer centric ‘experts.’ That either makes me a moron or … well … a contrarian.

 

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“I am the sea and nobody owns me.”

———-

Pippi Longstocking

 

just please act like a grownup

September 15th, 2017

pretending to be a functioning adult exhausting

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“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.”

 

=

John Connolly

 

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“Refusing to grow up may be a form of rebellion. But really growing up could be a revolution.”

 

Susan Neiman

 

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Well.

 

organizational exhaustion batteryTrump is exhausting. Not his presidency, not his administration, not his lack of policies or lack of any intellectual thought … just Trump.

Trump is exhausting.

 

I have decided he is exhausting because while I have continuously woken up every day hoping that today would be the day he would actually act like a president … okay … maybe just like a business leader … okay … I actually just want to wake up and see him act like an grownup … a grown up.

 

Today, just another day, he wakes up and starts tweeting about London terrorism <which the UK prime minister and Scotland Yard have to respond “not very helpful”>, about an ESPN anchor, about his stupid wall, about … well … too numerous to count. And it isn’t just his lack-of-any-real-thought 140 character tweeting it is also his tween tone, teen sensitivity and teen words/grammar/punctuation.

 

He is not even the junior class president … he is just the gossip girl between classes.

 

Think about it.trump sophmoric dennis

 

Everything is unfair.

He is sad.

Girls confuse him.

I told you so.

I wish everyone would pay attention to me.

Create drama <to Armageddon-like levels when possible>.

 

 

<sigh>

 

 

You would think I would have been smart enough to know that this is the new normal for us but the same normal for Donald J Trump.

 

I mean, what the hell, I wrote the following in March 2016 <yeah … 18 months ago … seems like a lifetime in Trump squirrel years>:

 

—————

 

And then, after my first response, I laughed. I laughed because I sudden realized that every teen in America must be celebrating in the halls of their high school.

 

Trump is one of them.

 

<and imagine the kitchen table conversations now taking place where parents are counseling their children only to hear “you are being so unfair !!! … I was just retweeting what was on the internet … c’mon Mom … Donald Trump does it … you are being unfair …!!!”>

 

Look.

 

stop tweeting trump batmanSit around a bunch of older folk and pretty soon the conversation will ease its way into how the younger generation is addicted to their phones, they cannot think for themselves, twitter is the universe of the mindless illiterate generation, twitter is the death of grammar & punctuation and they believe everything they see on the internet.

 

Suffice it to say, older folk have a tendency to believe handheld technology is destroying young people’s minds <the implication is that ‘sensible grownups would never do the things that immature, selfish, entitled young people would do.’

 

<please note … I do not agree and that when I am involved in this discussion it is typically around that lat comment that my head explodes>

 

Anyway.

 

Trump is what older folk actually fear & believe.

Trump embodies teen twitterology.

 

He cannot stop retweeting and cannot stop from commenting on anything and he tweets before thinking … and retweets anything that comes across his phone that looks interesting to retweet <regardless of whether he has actually checked that it is real or not> .

 

He can summarize his policies, with detail, in maybe 2 tweets issued as he sips his coffee in the morning.

 

After the coffee kicks in it will take about 6 tweets to change the previous 2.

And later in the day he gets to go on air and discuss how the world is unfair <only to him>.

 

This is Trump’s doom loop of consistent inconsistencies whereby the next tweet update absolves responsibility for the less than thoughtful tweets up to that point.

And, of course, it would be unfair to judge him on his 25th tweet when he is already on his 1250th tweet.

 

Wow.

 

 

Dear weakDonald, have you thought about enrolling in high school again so you can troll the hallways as a bully and be the most important boy in the sophomore class?

 

His immaturity almost makes teens look mature in contrast.

 

<source: teens celebrate trump as new leader (‘cause he is just like us) March 25th 2016>

————————

 

Trump’s tweening behavior is tiring.trump tweet mouth loser

 

Exhausting.

 

I just want him to act like a grownup.

 

That’s it.

 

Yeah.

 

The bar is that low.

 

Is that too much to ask?

 

I ask this because I know that being a grownup & “grownuphood” <a little different than adulthood> is all about becoming someone and something … and unbecoming someone and something.

 

The truth about growing up is that we are constantly developing and un-developing and we continue to survive the missteps and step backs and figure out where & how to excel with momentary glimpses of what ‘could be’ … and that is what grownuphood is all about.

 

And that is the ‘growing up’ I fear Donald J Trump is not doing <nor has ever done>.

 

 

If I could talk to Donald J <most likely using lots of pictures> I would tell him that grownuphood is much much better than okay. It is really good. It is much better because while some call it the burden of responsibility I call it “the freedom to enable my destiny.”

 

Yeah.

Destiny kind of demands some grownupness <sorry about that Donald J>.

 

But the prize of grownuphood?

 

You do with your destiny what you want … you can  get angry if it doesn’t happen the way you want but suffice it to say … grownuphood is great because it is YOUR time to make it happen.

 

And I wish grownups would reclaim grownuphood and let the youth have their youth.

And I wish Trump would claim some grownuphood and let the youth have their youth.

 

trump lower tweetBut … this is Trumpville.

 

A place where little makes sense.

 

That is where we seem to live today.

 

Look.

 

He can be an idiot of he wants.

He can be incompetent <because he is>.

He can be an empty intellectual vessel <he is>.

 

But for god’s sake … just please start acting like a grown up.

 

the oversimplification crisis

September 11th, 2017

 

occam economy choice simplify

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We miss out on the value of the message itself as a vehicle for driving virality.”

 

Jonah Berger

 

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“Say something meaningful in an interesting way.”

 

Bruce McTague

<author of “the shortest business book ever written”>

 

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So.

 

 

oversimplification wrongThis is about how we have a simplification crisis.

 

 

Ok.

This is about how we have an oversimplification crisis.

 

This crisis is making us … well … stupid.

 

 

Ok.

This crisis is making us stupider.

 

 

Look.

 

What I mean is that in a world in which we know that everything is complex, and more often than not, more complex than our own pea like brains can handle, we unerringly swerve toward simplistic headline conclusions and oversimplifications and absurd bullet point conclusions.

 

This surface skating intellectualism just makes us stupider.

 

Now.oversimplify assumption risk life business

 

We may convince ourselves we do this simply as a mental survival technique but I would argue, and I do, that it actually is the opposite of a survival technique … it is destructive behavior. It is destructive in that it destroys the overall thinking of what is actually a population quite capable of being intelligent, if not intellectual.

Yeah.

It makes us stupider.

 

I thought about this the other day because I have conversations with some incredibly smart and talented people who know a shitload more about more things than I could ever imagine and this topic came up. I note the smartness of these people to highlight how unusual it is that I can say something that actually can make a group of these people stop, be silent and then go “hmmmmmmmmmm.”

It is a rare thing.

 

And, yet, it happened the other day.

 

After some extensive conversation on North Korea, global trade challenges, Trump <of course> & foreign policy we opened the discussion to “what is the biggest challenge facing us …”

 

My thought drew some <thoughtful> silence.

 

I said “oversimplification.”

 

To me … oversimplification misleads and creates bad decisions and, worse, creates bad thinking <which leads to bad opinions, attitudes and thoughts>.

 

And I offered a couple reasons why I believe this is happening <I did this because if you can identify the issues you can find solutions>:

 

 

We have convinced ourselves we do not have time for complex

 

 

big fat waste of my time business show for itGoing back to the ‘destructive behavior’ thought I shared earlier …  oversimplification is anything but efficient. It actually demands more time in a variety of ways. The two simplest ways it does so is <1> the time we over invest attempting to isolate the simplest version of what is anything but simple and <2> the amount of time & energy we have to invest explain everything beyond the simplistic tripe initially offered, to thwart misguided behavior & reactions to the oversimplified offering & to redefine the oversimplification into bifurcated parts of the oversimplified whole.

 

We do this destructive behavior because we have convinced ourselves that we all have shorter, and shortened, attention spans.

We do this destructive behavior because we have convinced ourselves that people best retain “one thing.”

We do this destructive behavior because we have convinced ourselves in our perceived “never enough time” world we have to topline everything <to fit everything in>.

We do this destructive behavior because we have convinced ourselves that in a blizzard of nonstop things constantly vying for our attention the only way to capture someone’s attention is in some pithy soundbite.

 

Basically we have convinced ourselves that hollowing out an idea and a thought actually benefits not only the idea and the thought … but us!

 

This is fucking nuts. Absolutely crazy.

 

Unfortunately, and truthfully, some things are just too complex to communicate in a sound bite or in 3 seconds or less.

 

No matter how brief and simple you want to make it … well … it is neither brief nor simple. It is complex and sometimes the opposite of brief.

 

It isn’t just about telling a story.

 

Nor is it just about finding influencers to broker the story.

 

Nor is it just about practical value.

 

Nor is it just about emotion.

 

Unfortunately it is a combination of those things. Yeah. Effective communication is … uhm … complex.

 

 

We have convinced ourselves that simple & simplicity is reflective of common sense.

 

 

time to do it right do it overI admit.

 

I have never been shy about calling bullshit on the simplistic tripe being spewed under the guise of ‘expert advice’ or ‘common sense.’

 

That said.

I will suggest no topic has  been tortured more by common sense than simplicity.

 

 

Common sense suggests the simplest thing is the best.

 

Common sense suggests it is easier for a person to remember one thing and one word.

 

Common sense suggests in a complex world we humans crave simplicity.

 

Common sense suggests in a busy world we only have time for simplicity.

 

Common sense suggests a lot of nonsensical bullshit.

 

I will not argue that making something as simple as it can be is good but … well … simplistically … oversimplification is misleading and ultimately creates bad less-than-informed decision making AND thinking.

 

We have used this common sense simplicity bullshit for one simple reason — it serves us well in challenging the most established legitimate rule of Life & things. And that rule is “the world is complex.”

 

We embrace simplistic solution after simplistic solution, all labeled as ‘common sense ideas’, which are often counter to what an expert would suggest <which is often deemed “too complex”>…  only to find 90% of the time common sense was not only just simply wrong but also made us stupider.

 

I have written about simplicity and the complexity of finding the simplest way to communicate the complex many times and as I do so today I would remind everyone of what Jonah Berger offered us for a nifty sound bite compilation of sound bites to create a sound bite philosophy:

 

Here are his STEPPS for making anything go viral:

 

–          Social Currency: We share things that make us look good (even if that means pictures of our cat).

 

–          Triggers: Easily memorable information means its top of mind and tip of the tongue.

 

–          Emotion: When we care, we share.

 

–          Public: Built to show, built to grow.

 

–          Practical Value: News people can use.

 

–          Stories: People are inherent storytellers, and all great brands also learn to tell stories. Information travels under the guise of idle chatter.

 

And while this is about “making things go viral” it is actually about finding the simplest way to communicate complex shit in a way that it is actually retained in a cognitive way.

 

I would also note that this dos not reflect “one simple thing”, sometimes your total obliviousness blows my mindit does reflect the complexity of reality and the mind and it reflects how to … well … help make us less stupider.

 

Ah.

Cognitive way.

As in “we actually understand what it is we heard, saw or read.”

 

That is an important thing to ponder because over simplification cheats cognitive value as well as the value of whatever it is you have to offer people. Simplicity may be “memorable” but it doesn’t really lodge itself in anyone’s mind & memory in any meaningful way.

 

In fact.

 

The less depth you offer in your oversimplification the more you are at the mercy of the mind that decides to remember you. What I mean by that is if you don’t provide the depth the mind will create some perceptions around whatever it lodges in the pea like brain.

 

Uhm.

 

This means the pea like brain lodges only what is actually the brain’s perceptions of what to remember and not what you <a> know to be true, <b> think it may be important for that mind to know or <c> want the brain to store away in its mind.

 

faulty reasoning oversimplification overlookI imagine what I am talking about is some wacky version of awareness versus engagement but that shit is bullshit too.

 

It’s all bullshit because we should be turning away from simplification and engagement and connection and simply focus on “say what you need to say to persuade someone to think or do what you want them to think or do.”

 

All the other bullshit just confuses things.

 

If I tell someone that ‘being noticed ‘ is the most important thing, than some asshat is gonna come up with some zany oversimplified shit that gets noticed but doesn’t effectively communicate one thing <let alone all the things you may have deemed truly important in the beginning>.

 

I admit … I balk at a lot of the bullshit offered online about simplification <and the importance thereof> because … well … it is an oversimplification which diminishes the importance of ‘communicating depth’ and increases the importance of ‘being noticed.’

I do not like that equation.

 

Effective communication is not a binary choice.

 

Effective communication, as with almost everything, is a complex challenge in communicating a complex thing well – because if you can communicate a couple things well it actually increases the perceived value <which then inevitably creates a stronger “memory stamp” … with value attached!>.

 

Which brings me back to our oversimplification crisis.

 

I could clearly argue that in today’s fragmented messaging world where information multiplies at light speed and a day still remains 24 hours that we humans are constantly honing our “incoming thoughts” filtering mechanisms.

 

I could also argue that our filtering system, as it exists today, sucks.

 

We have dumbed down our communication and thinking behavior to such a hollowed out status the majority of time we skate along the superficial irrelevant surface of reality.

 

If we are lucky, the ice doesn’t crack.

 

But the truth is that oversimplification only offers the thinnest of ice to skate on and inevitably we fall thru the ice … over and over and over again.

 

Uhm.

 

And in the business world falling through the ice is bad. It is, metaphorically, making a bad decision based on shallow thinking and paying for it.

 

Yeah.

I did say the biggest issue we face is oversimplification.

I said that because if I can solve this, if I can have smarter people communicating complex things more smartly and I can have more everyday schmucks understanding that simple solutions are more often like trying to place a square peg in a round hole … well … I think it unravels a shitload of other problems we face in today’s world.

 

I imagine I am arguing that if more people are less stupid and more aware of the reality of things the more effective & efficient we will be in addressing the difficulties reality tends to place in front of us.

 

period end-of-story_design

 

In the end I will go back to where i began … “say something meaningful in an interesting way.”

 

There are no rules nor boundaries in this statement.

 

You use as many words, or as few, as you need to say … to say something meaningful in an interesting way with the intent for it to be understood … and, ultimately, persuade someone to think something.

 

Period.

the deplorables defined

August 30th, 2017

trump voters deserve not waste of space

 

===============

 

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”

 

Isaac Asimov

 

==============

 

“So I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush when I say that you were warned about this man—and you ignored our warnings.

We were right; you were wrong.

 

The masses, it turns out, sometimes are asses.

Sometimes the people who actually pay close attention to politics know more than the disgruntled populists and nationalists who are willing to gamble on the future of this great republic—and on the reputation of a conservative philosophy that goes from Aristotle to Burke to Buckley—in order to boost a reality show host.

You elected your guy, and look where it got us.”

 

Matt Lewis <Republican Conservative>

 

================

 

 

Ok.

 

I probably get in more heated debates over Trump voters than almost any other deplorable Trump votertopics discussed these days – with both Trump voters and non-Trump voters.

 

I even know why it happens … we generalize and we label.

 

And in generalizing we force a Trump voter to defend other Trump voters, who most likely voted for Trump for some other reason than the one they are defending, and the non Trump voter paints all Trump voters with the worst of the worst attributes <the truly deplorable aspects>.

 

This is crazy.

No.

This is stupid.

 

The majority of Americans don’t have a label attached to them other than “get up and go to work and get shit done” people.

People rarely self-identify as a CNN watcher or Fox watcher or MSNBC watcher … or a republican or democrat … or any fringe group when you meet them.

 

We apply the label on them … we generalize for them.

 

But most people are labeled by … well … community, family and what they do to earn a living every day.

Sure … elections force most of us to take some stand but most of us embrace that stand with some unease. We would rather be defined by what happens in our day and lives than by whom we elected to vote for.

Most of us have our own imperfections and flaws without having to explain, or be defined, by some imperfections and flaws of someone who we voted for.

 

Most of all the label stuff is crap.

 

And maybe what is worst about labels are they suggest most Americans have to be “x” or they are “y.” That is complete and utter bullshit.voters people america speak out

 

I can be tough on immigration and still be compassionate.

 

I can have government les involved in healthcare and still make sure a safety net is available for all people.

 

I can increase my military budget without being some “hawk” who wants to drop bombs on everyone.

 

I guess my real point is that most Americans want it all and chafe when it is suggested they have to choose one thing or another. While TV pundits went out of their way to suggest this last election was a ‘binary choice’ the truth of the matter was that the decision on who to vote for was more likely a complex more-than-binary choice.

 

Which leads me to the Trump voters.

 

Up until now I have leaned heavily on the fabulous CBS News Nation Tracker Poll <CFM Strategic Communications panel survey> which outlined that the nation’s view of Donald Trump as President breaks down into four categories – Believers (22%), Conditionals (22%), Curious (21%) and Resisters (35%).

 

The first category are true believers who think Trump is on the right track. Conditionals generally support Trump, but may not approve of everything he does or says. The Curious are opponents, but could be swayed depending on Trump actions. Resisters see no hope in Trump and oppose him across the board.

 

But now there is a new piece of research out which breaks Trump voters into 5 groups which I will use to make my point again.

 

To summarize it I offer these 5 numbers to keep in mind:

 

American Preservationists (20%): 12 million people

  • These are the core ‘always-Trumpers’ … this is also the group who think anti-white discrimination is a much more prevalent problem than is discrimination against any minority group <which is, realistically, false>

 

 

Staunch Conservatives (31%): 19 million people

  • These are the core Republicans who would most likely vote for any Republican even if it was an alien

 

i have a voice opinion vote participate

Anti-Elites (19%): 11 million people

 

  • These have relatively cooler feelings toward Donald Trump and nearly half had favorable opinions of Clinton in 2012. This group shifted most dramatically, however, against Clinton by November 2016.

 

 

Free Marketeers (25%): 15 million people

  • Small government fiscal conservatives, free traders, with moderate to liberal positions on immigration and race.

 

 

the Disengaged (5%): 3 million people

  • This group does not know much about politics, but what they do know is they feel detached from institutions and elites and are skeptical of immigration.

 

 

USA population: 326.5 million people

USA adult 18+ population: est. 250 million people

 

<note: I used 60 million Trump votes to simplify my math and come up with people numbers>

 

The other thing I always keep in mind is that nowhere along the way, primary & general elections, has Trump ever won the popular vote. In the primaries Republicans voted in significant numbers for anyone but Trump <almost 2/3rd of primary votes did not vote for Trump>. My point in all these numbers is that Trump voters are not just an American minority/splinter of the whole but a relatively small <but loud> group.

 

Regardless.

 

Here is the topline good news … I would estimate we have less than 20 million, idiots Trump voters smart people stupid fucks breakdown of populationmy guess is maybe 15 million, truly deplorable people in the USA … say maybe 6% of adults. Here is the bad news … we tend to suggest those 6% are representative of all Trump voters <as well as all that is ignorant, deplorable and bad about USA>.

 

Anyway.

 

We screw up numbers in generalizations all the time.

Not all Trump voters voted for the same reason nor do they have similar issues.

 

It’s just like discussing “the 99%.”

 

The 99% are a mix of the wretched of the earth, the everyday schmucks who want to do the right thing and a fairly large group of upper middle class <doctors, university teachers, journalists, senior management, politicians>. It is the mixed bag of people who, without them, the 1% would cease to exist.

Lumping them all together in the 99% is almost suggesting that is America’s middle class which then suggests opportunity is equal to all <and the 1% should be everyone’s objective>.

 

Trump’s voters were a mixed bag of people with some good reasons to pull he lever for Trump and some bad reasons for pulling the lever for Trump.

 

Anyway.

 

I purposefully called this piece today “deplorables defined” to make a point. Of course not everyone who voted for Trump is deplorable … and Hillary never suggested such a thing. But … gosh … maybe we should have listened to her a little more closely … and maybe we should have listened to the entire speech … and maybe, just maybe, it is possible she was right:

 

——————

 

“I know there are only 60 days left to make our case — and don’t get complacent, don’t see the latest outrageous, offensive, inappropriate comment and think, well, he’s done this time. We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”

“But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

 

—————-

sigh charlie

Sigh.

 

Of course, none of us really did pay attention to it all <even the mainstream media which was supposedly all in her camp> and paid the price of not doing so by missing her statement about empathizing and working for better lives for those Trump supporters who aren’t scum-of-the-earth deplorable dumpster fire pieces of shit.

 

Would I have used the word “deplorable?”

 

No. probably not.

She probably should have been more specific and named them out, as the Alt-right, misogynists, white supremacist, KKK, and Nazis. But you know what? We are dancing on the head of a pin. ‘Some’ deplorables voted for Trump, ‘some’ deplorables still support trump and ‘some’ deplorables are irredeemable.

 

Ok.

 

Let me spend a moment more on ‘deplorable’.

While I, personally, would have not used the term with regard to some Trump voters I believe the only true mistake Clinton made was apologizing. She should have tripled down with clarifying & defining … and suggesting <in some way> we all have a deplorable ‘voice’ inside us whispering fears and untruths and … well … the bad shit we think about people who do not look like us.  And point out that Trump whispers, in a bombastic way, to our deplorable inside … and we shouldn’t permit him that victory <because Americans are better than that>.

 

By the way … I do believe that. And while there certainly are some truly deplorable people in the USA I would like to think 99% are redeemable not because they need to be redeemed but rather they need to understand they can ignore that voice inside and still get ahead and ‘win.’

 

In the end I offer two numbers.

 

15 and 30.

 

If you scour some of the more random assessment of the population and their views with regard to Trump you will find these two numbers <or close to them> constantly bubbling up.

 

15 percent Trump15%.

 

This would be the % of people who would follow Trump like lemmings over the cliff. He could bomb Alabama and they would find a good reason he did it <note: these are not all deplorable people but deplorable people reside within this number>.

 

 

30 Percent Trump30%.

This would be the % of people who wouldn’t follow Trump if you told them you would win the lottery. He could apologize every day until the day he died and they would still find a reason to suggest he pissed on Mother Theresa’s grave.

 

Anyway.

 

I don’t know Trump nor do I wish to ever meet the man but if I could whisper these numbers into his head … I would. They reflect the precarious nature of his presidency <or his reelection>.

I am under no illusion that Trump truly has any desire to unite the country but the numbers reflect the fact America is not deplorable by nature and the bigger message opportunity, to inspire people, is to remind them of that.

 

 

the myth of simplification

July 19th, 2017

simple i like

 

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde

 

 

“What a simple black and white world you must live in.” – unknown

 

 

————————–

 

Communication.

 

Effective communication has been, and always will be, complex and complicated … and a good thing for society. Effective communication inevitably feeds into the minds and enlightenment of the listeners. If you dumb down communication inevitably you dumb down the listeners.

 

Old white men hollowed out communication. I imagine as they hollowed out everything else they found it inherently more productive to gain their objectives by hollowing out communication. Everything became soundbites, powerpoint bullet points and ‘elevator speeches.’ Effectively communicating complexity took on less importance than puncturing the mind with a quick sharp stab <and then walking away>. Old white men mastered the art of emptying communication to a point where businesses end up walking on the slippery surface of irrelevance <cloaked in a beautiful robe called “what is important for you to know.”>

 

Bruce McTague

————————-

 

 

Well.

 

I may as well fulfill my contrarian obligations immediately – nothing is it is complicated complex not simple Life worldsimple.

 

Nothing.

 

Look.

 

I may be wrong but I think the world would be a shitload ‘righter’ if we just assumed nothing was simple and started acting that way.

The whole idea of simple and simplicity has … well … fucked us up royally. It has almost become an obsession toward which everyone is consumed by until we are either frozen into inaction <this isn’t simple enough> or we hold our “simplicity prize” up high proudly … only to find in our holy quest we discarded some essential items which would have actually helped this ‘simple idea’ live.

 

We all want to simplify our lives <or at least we talk about it a lot>, simplicity in thinking, simplicity in ideas and simplicity in work … and yet, as a generalization, we all seem to seek every way possible to complicate our lives.

 

We see simplicity as a way to solve problems and, whew, we are a certainly a ‘people’ of problem solvers <but also problem creators as a corollary>.

And, yet, “it seems simple …” may be the biggest problem of all and may be one of the most misused and misguided statements and thoughts in today’s world.

 

 

A good friend of mine, an experienced communications professional, always says “if you are explaining you are losing” as an argument for simplicity. The challenge is that it … well … isn’t an argument for simplicity. It is actually an argument for clearly articulating what you want, and need, to articulate.

In fact … as I will point out later in this rant piece … being too simple actually creates more confusion, therefore, simplicity could actually be creating the explaining.

oh my god cover mouth silence do not speak

 

 

<oh my>

 

 

And that is where the myth of simplification dies. It dies in truth and reality.

 

Simplicity reality, more often than not, consists of two opposing things – security/reliability, which anchors the sense of safety thereby justifying the common sense aspect of simplicity, & passion/risk/newness, which anchors the sense of movement thereby justifying the smartness aspect of simplicity.

Simplicity reality, more often than not, is an amalgamation of multiple fragments crating a mosaic which is pleasing to the eye <and relatively easy to grasp>.

 

Simplicity reality, more often than not, consists of some opposing thoughts in that, typically, if you have one… you can’t have the other.

 

Contrary to simplicity narratives the complexity actually brings in the pragmatism of a simplistic reality <and I would argue effectiveness.>.

 

All this means is that simplicity is rarely simple and trying to capture it in a meaningful single word or image is … well … not only silly but sells the depth & breadth of a decision or situation or idea or thought … or reality itself … short.

 

Reality is complex.

Life is complex.

Most ideas and thoughts are complex.

 

And there is no simple solution to complexity.

 

Simple is hard.

 

It is hard because sometimes, okay, most times simplicity is arrived at by distilling complex solutions/ideas down to its most efficient form.

 

business simplicity complex woekI would note that from my own business experience I would say that many times simplicity ideas can only be found from checking out all of the different solutions. And after sifting through everything simplicity is more often found in a “doh” moment <not an “ah ha!” moment> in that you may be surprised by the fact simplicity is just the thing that makes the most sense at the end of the day.

 

And why is simple THAT hard?

 

Well.

 

Al Einstein said, “Make things as simple as can be—but not simpler.”

 

Geez.

 

So simple isn’t the least.

It may actually be somewhere above the least and significantly below the most <complex>.

 

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek simplicity. But what it does mean is that simple or simplicity shouldn’t be defined by rules or milestones or trite “say it in 10 seconds or less” dictates or, well, any boundaries.

 

Simplicity defines itself it is not defined. Simplicity is reflective of the time, place, people, situation and solution needed.

 

Ponder that my friends.

 

What may make simplicity even more complex is, oddly enough, that part which should make it the simplest.

 

Simplicity, more often than not, is the nitty gritty stuff and not the more glamorous big vision or “big idea” stuff. It is about marrying principle and pragmatism and gradual improvement – piece by piece and part by part.

 

To me, simple and simplicity tends to be found in shit that most people would think has nothing to do with simple:

 

  • Coalesce fragments

 possibilities-plans-ideas-infinity-life-business-choices

“The whole is simpler than the sum of its parts.

Willard Gibbs

 

I think people would be much better off f they understood that while simple may be represented in ‘one thing’ it is actually representative of many things.

The best of the best ‘simplicity finders’ are the ones who are the best at coalescing fragments. Gathering up disparate pieces of information and figuring out how to make them whole in a way that

 

 

  • Box in complexity

 

Let me begin by paraphrasing a quote about how Sylvia Plath wrote…

 

“Whether Plath wrote about nature, or about the social restrictions on individuals, she stripped away the polite veneer. She let her writing express elemental forces and primeval fears. In doing so, she laid bare the contradictions that tore apart appearance and hinted at some of the tensions hovering just beneath the surface of the American way of life.”

 

Margaret Rees

—————————————

 

I used the quote because far too many people think simplicity is about stripping away things to showcase the core instead maybe they should be thinking about stripping away the veneer so that the truth can be laid bare.

Let me explain <you will not agree with this if you do not agree that simplicity is a ‘whole made up of fragments’>.

 

Simplicity, to me, is about using the complex parts to box in the whole.

 

making your point bracket triangulate business combine experienceYou either:

 

 

  • Bracket what you want to offer <simplicity resides within two opposing thoughts>.

 

 

  • Triangulate what you want to offer <simplicity resides in the middle>.

 

 

  • Box in what you want to offer <simplicity gets squeezed into middle>.

 

Now.

Some people may use what I just shared and say “simplicity is the distillation” and I would push back by suggesting “simplicity is reflective of all the parts as it shows the whole.”

Am I parsing words?

Maybe.

 

But when someone says ‘show a picture’ or ‘say it in 5 seconds or you lose them’ and be done with it … I just don’t think it is that simple. Simple stimuli are just as likely to confuse. Provide ambiguity. Generate a feeling of ‘lesser than’ <”I am missing something of value or I missed the opportunity to showcase some value”>.

 

— note: there is a lot of research supporting this thought —

 

Look.

 

Our minds are like real estate.

 

Space is limited and we can’t let every thought, idea, product, person or whatever have a place to stay.

 

That means where the rubber hits the road with regard to being simple and simplicity is that it must create some connection with whomever is touching that simplicity

 

I will end with Chopin. Chopin is one of my favorite classical composers. I seriously doubt anyone who has ever looked at any of his sheet music would suggest his music was not complex. And, yet, close your eyes and listen … it contains a simplicity that connects.

 

==================

 

“Simplicity is the final achievement.

After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

 

Frédéric Chopin

 

====================

 

All I know is that we have totally fucked up the idea of simplicity to a point where simple, or simplicity, is more a myth than reality. This myth has hollowed us out – hollowed our thinking, our communication and our culture.

 

beauty in the breakdown 2

Most of the worthwhile things in Life are not hollow … they have depth & breadth … they are … well … complex.

 

Reality is complex.

 

Life is complex.

 

Most ideas and thoughts are complex.

 

And there is no simple solution to complexity but I would suggest that the beauty can be found in the breakdown of the complex to its simplest form.

Enlightened Conflict