Monday, May 11, 2009

The Best Defense


Defending and championing ideas is healthy right? You might say it's part of our jobs as Brand Passionistas.

But when does defending go too far?

Perhaps when you are so bent on selling your idea that you fail to hear the constructive criticism that could actually help make it better.

It's the fine line between commitment and falling in love with the sound of your own voice.

Sound familiar? If not, maybe you are one of the rare few who can keep their objectivity and who welcomes dissenting opinions.

Or maybe you just aren't being truthful.

A friend of mine once gave a really impassioned speech in defense of a project in a budget approval meeting. Not surprisingly, since funding was involved, our senior management began asking some questions to make sure all angles had been considered.

Instead of taking the comments to heart and really thinking them through, he turned up his passion a few notches and ended up steam-rolling the meeting with an Oscar-worthy performance that was so full of faith and brimstone that it (temporarily) allayed the manager's concerns.

Walking out of the meeting with him I commented on how sure he had seemed and asked him if he really believed everything he just said. He pointed to the newly empty conference room and said, "Well, to tell you the truth I am not 100% sure. But I did believe it in there."

Eventually the concerns were raised again and he had a lot more due diligence to do before moving forward. While he initially got kudos for his passion, over time he got a reputation for being a bit of a drama queen. As a result there was often a higher level of skepticism around his ideas- whether he deserved it or not.

As part of the World Innovation Forum in NYC last week, I got the chance to meet with some people in the Soho Apple store. They talked a lot about how the store is designed to be constantly changed and improved. To accommodate new products, but also to change things around when something is not working.

One example they gave of this is the ipod bar. Sounded like a good idea when it first came up, lots of smart people at Apple were excited about it. But it turned out the customers didn't feel a need for a separate ipod bar. So the folks at Apple changed course.

They folded the ipod bar into the general Genius bar and re-configured the liberated space to accommodate a new "Studio" where for a modest yearly fee you can spend one hour a week one on one with an Apple specialist. This has become a key draw in the stores. They didn't defend their original idea to the death. They listened, learned and moved on to a new and better idea.

Take a step back and think about some ideas that you are championing right now. Has your passion for them gotten so deep that you are actually blind to different opinions? Even those that have some validity and with a proper analysis could actually make your idea stronger?

The ability to passionately champion your ideas can be a strength. But letting this over-ride the ability to hear and consider any criticism from others is a weakness. And this might just be the soft spot that over time gets you knocked out.

That's my point of view. What's your twist?

Have you ever gone too far in defending an idea?

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