August 07, 2007

Evolution And "The Canyon"

Imagine four checkerboards, with pieces assembled, red vs. black. Four players will play against a computer. Five rules apply to our experiment.

The first player must move the far left third-row piece.

The second player must move the second-most piece to the left in the third-row.

The third player must move the second-most piece to the right in the third-row.

The fourth player must move the far right piece to the right in the third-row.

After each player moves their piece, the computer must move the same piece on all four boards.

After the first round of moves, each game is allowed to play out to it's inevitable conclusion.


If we assume that each player is equally skilled, and is playing the same computer algorithm, we will notice that after ten moves each of the four checkerboards look very different.

Each player can win the game. But the starting point, dictated by the initial rules, dictate the evolution of each game.

I am struck by "evolution" every time I visit a client. When we go through the Database Marketing audit, it becomes obvious that a set of circumstances at some point in the past sent the organization down a "path".

The "path" interacts with staff personalities and abilities, corporate strategy, the customer, competitors, and the general business climate. This unique combination of circumstances result in success or struggle.

If there is anything I am learning, it is that each business requires a unique solution, one customized on the basis of the unique path the business took to get to this point. The prescribed solution bridges the prior "path" to the
desired "outcome" the business wants to achieve.

Too often, articles in trade journals, speakers at conferences, and expert bloggers want us to "jump over the canyon", without understanding how we got to the canyon, without understanding which part of the canyon we are facing.

It's sexy. We love watching the "success stories" of folks rocketing over the canyon. Some love to clobber those stuck on the side of the canyon. Some love to clobber those who try to jump over the canyon, peak far short of the other side, then plunge to the riverbed hundreds of feet below.

While it may take longer, try listening to how folks got themselves to the edge of the canyon, then build a bridge over the canyon for them.

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