Thursday, December 30, 2021

If That's True Then We Would See...

 There's an interesting conversation reported in Malcolm Gladwell's Bomber Mafia. A US Army Air Corps General is talking strategy with a Royal Air Force General during World War II. The British prefer blanket or carpet bombing of large, often civilian areas to demoralize the populace who would then press for peace. The US, after much thinking done at the Army Air Corps War College in Alabama, prefer destroying strategic military targets that would hinder the German military efforts. They would rely on the new-fangled Norton bomb site. They could also fly during the day, rather than at night. When asked why the British strategy would work when the Germans, using a similar strategy against the British--think continual bombing of London--were not demoralizing the British people, the RAF General replied, "The Germans are just a different breed."

How often in business do we suffer the same cognitive dissonance? I've seen sales proposals put forth from our companies that we wouldn't accept from our suppliers. Why? Perhaps we believe our customers are "a different breed" from ourselves. Perhaps they'd fall for the poor economics hidden in the "false" rebate or the fine print or the useless warranty. 

I've seen management propose slim merit increases as a percentage to alter performance or cultural behaviors. Management knows they themselves wouldn't change unless the potential was significant--20% or more. I've seen boards rely on financial incentives for executives when money is motivator only for routine work, whereas we need executives to be creative strategically. Instead money will just encourage executives to use the same old, tried-and-true strategies and tactics that have won in the past, but may be useless in any new competitive, regulatory, supply-chain, workforce environments. 

Maybe it's worth using the old Kepner Tregoe problem-solving technique of the Is/Is Not matrix. To solve an issue: first, state the issue clearly so that you know the scope of the problem; second, describe what, where, when, how often, to what extent the problem is and is not--the latter being really key; third, brainstorm possible causes; fourth, test the causes against the "Is" and "Is Not"--the cause has to explain both. For example, if you think the cause is a change in supplied materials for a problem of defects, we would expect to see those defects in other products that use the same materials. If we don't, then the cause is not the supplied materials.

If we expect to see a strategy lead to a demoralized population, we would expect to see it in Britain. If we don't, then the strategy is probably not correct.

If we expect to see increased traffic at our restaurant when we expand our Instagram presence, we could check to see if other meal providers have had an increase when they've expanded their social media presence. If not, let's look for a different strategy. And don't take the word of social media marketers at face value--trust but verify. As one consultant told me, online marketing works for online marketers; that's where you expect to find them so it works. But not everyone expects to find every good or service online in a way that convinces us to buy. (Amazon had 5% of total retail even while having 50% of online retail.)

Note: Gladwell's Bomber Mafia was conceived first as an audio book and this writer highly recommends enjoying the book in that form.

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