Thursday, August 20, 2009

Failure is an Option

In fact it's not only an option -- it's a requirement.

Make no mistake, failure has gotten a bad rap.

With visions of "success factors" and "best practices" dancing in the breakout sessions of our best mental slideware, there's nothing dishonest about wanting to put our best golden feet forward.

Here's the problem. Singing one's own praises is sincere. In fact it's the most authentic form of expression an individual can communicate in public. No degree of certified witnesses, credentialing, or group affiliations can disguise the impulse for self-promotion.

The snag occurs when the message sender thinks that the substance of the message takes precedence over the messenger. This broad based and unintended conceit has been with us since April, 1939 when television covered its first event -- the birth of itself, as noted by the noted Hadley historian Andrew Morris-Friedman.

Messengers get mistaken for messages all the time. The bigger mistake is the self-delusion: that the bigger, faster, cheaper rule applies to message production the same way it does to plasma screens and smart phones. Starring in your own message works when you know your recipients. But it doesn't scale -- especially when the messenger breaks the cardinal rule of public self-awareness:

Thou cannot confer credibility unto thou self ... unless of course one's goal is shrill, pious righteousness served up with a splash of self-importance.

That's why I insist that my students share their secrets of failure. The lessons that bear repeating because the experience of them does not. I tell them I'm not interested in their search results or favorite sites but what they do with them. I’m not going to satisfy that interest unless I tell then my own failure stories – not tales of woe but uphill climb we all have.

Remember that the next time you get spammed about some upcoming webcast trumpeting a parade of unceasing success. If there's any substance there the talk will be focused on the missteps, sunk costs, and conflicting signals that their laurels are resting on.

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About attentionSpin

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attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.