No good will come from extremes, even when it comes to extremely innovative thinking

Brad Feldman got an email from a reader that sounds familiar — same story, different business. While Brad’s focus is agile software, the same pattern resounds through pharma marketing: Management will not try anything new until they can see it. And when I say “see it” I do not mean metaphorically.

Is this a bad thing?
In extremes, anything is bad.

risk continuum

No good will come from extremes.

Demanding that every idea be developed to the point that you can hold it in your hands before you’ll even consider it is inarguably bad. You will wind up like the company in Brad’s article: wasting millions trying to fix a wheezing, sprawling, state-of-the-art-if-it-were-1990 approach.

“We were too busy mopping up the floor to turn off the faucet.”

But immediately jumping on every new idea, however sketchy, is what I’ve always called “shiny penny syndrome.” It’s equally bad. You wind up with an ADD-wrinkled bag of fragmented accidental strategies.

It’s really easy to castigate bewhiskered, calcified management in hindsight. But no one knows what they don’t know. In Brad’s reader’s example, it’s easy to assume that the old guard didn’t realize that they could start all over again without repointing their entire IT team to the effort. In their minds, they probably imagined shutting down the business for months, risking their personal careers and fighting off an angry lynchmob of shareholders with tasers and hopeful promises.

To me, the lesson here is trust, communication and process.

  • The establishment needs to hire bold, measured thinkers that they trust to take the business forward, even if they don’t quite understand the technology.
  • And these bold, measured thinkers need to communicate, in the language of the establishment, what they are able to realistically pull off.
  • But it will all be frustrating smacktalk unless the organization as a whole spawns a culture that demands continuous improvement and shapes processes around that core directive.

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