June 25, 2012

Knows Just Enough To Be Dangerous

About twenty years ago, I worked for a person who loved to use the following phrase:

  • "S/he knows just enough to be dangerous."
Back then, I thought the comment was funny.

Today, the comment is spot-on accurate.

These days, we can "short-cut" the learning process via what is known as "Best Practices".  We go on Twitter and follow a hashtag, and we learn all sorts of wonky things ... "Nine Ways To Maximize And Leverage The Amazing Power Of Social Media" ... "Six Ways To Use Digital Marketing To Turbocharge Your Business" ... "Four Quick Tips For Implementing A Killer Mobile Strategy".

After we spend a few months reading what the pundits have to say, we feel like we're full of knowledge.  And why not?  All of the articles have similar themes, so we feel smart, we feel like we are harnessing the "wisdom of crowds".

And honestly, we've probably learned more than the poor fool who is gaining real knowledge via trial and error.

It's exactly at that point that we "know just enough to be dangerous".

Take a look at this handy little handwritten graph:

I see this play out, nearly every day.

It happens when the Digital Analyst learns so much, so fast, that s/he doesn't even realize s/he is damaging the business by not understanding the feedback loop that exists between online and offline channels.

It happens when the Brand Marketer learns so much, so fast, that s/he decides to double page counts in the catalog in an effort to "make a statement".

It happens when the Social Media marketer learns so much, so fast, that s/he convinces Management to stop mailing catalogs to customers in favor of having customers "join the conversation".

It happens when the Mobile Marketer learns so much, so fast, that s/he diverts marketing resources away from the core business, causing the 55+ rural customer who will never shop via mobile to spend less.

It happens when the Email Marketer learns so much, so fast, that s/he stops emailing customers who aren't "engaged", foregoing sales in hopes of achieving a contact strategy ideal.

It happens when the Catalog Marketer learns so much, so fast, that s/he stop mailing catalogs to online buyers and then are stunned when sales drop, because the Catalog Marketer failed to segment customers properly.

It is my opinion that you cannot accelerate the learning curve ... you can only change the shape of the curve.  Every shortcut you take today will be paired with a mistake you make later on.

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