If you are anything like me, you find it pretty easy to sit on the outside and pronounce judgment on others’ foibles, follies and plain old dumb ideas. If you are anything like me, it’s also easy to be oblivious to our own misadventures in the same or similar realms.
I’ve worked on growth and innovation strategies for most of my career. On occasion we did not make the progress we wanted because we were short on ideas and inspiration. Much of the time, however, it was because someone in a position of authority was holding on to something they had birthed and they weren’t willing to let it go. If I’m honest, sometimes that person was me.
When we put our heart and soul into something it is often difficult to see it objectively. When our ego becomes attached to that concept’s success–when the strategy and our sense of self begin to meld–than we often find ourselves in a bad place.
I worked with a well-known brand whose CEO was credited with crafting and executing a strategy that was wildly successful. Financial results were excellent and the company had substantially distanced itself from its nearest competitor. Unfortunately the evidence was mounting that not only was the strategy losing steam, but major pockets of weakness were emerging, creating considerable vulnerabilities should there be an economic downturn. Subsequent analysis and consumer research revealed the scary truth.
Those of us who were growing increasingly alarmed made numerous presentations to try to persuade the CEO to see our version of reality and convince him to take action. For the most part, we failed.
We failed not because our analysis was flawed or that our logic was shaky or that we didn’t have some kick-ass PowerPoint slides. The simple fact was we were telling him his baby was ugly and he was way too identified with the strategy to see that he had over played his hand.
I’m a firm believer in data, analysis and logic. I’ve had a fair amount of success being pretty darn good at persuading people to move outside their comfort zones. I like to believe that when presented with the facts I’m open to changing my mind.
But sometimes our baby is ugly. Until we are ready to let go of our ego–to being attached to the idea that our worth and our idea are intrinsically linked–chances are that all the forceful arguments and clever PowerPoint decks are merely annoyances.