in Ideas

Managing what you don’t understand

I give a lot of talks during the year. Often at the end of those talks someone will come up to me and say some variation of,

I really enjoy your talk. It resonated a lot. How do I make my web person understand this?

I have to be honest. Until the past year, I was not aware of how badly some place were struggling with their ability to integrate the web into their marketing units. Now in some places, this entire conversation is a form of blasphemy, but we’re going to operate in this paradigm for at least the rest of this blog post for simplicity sake.

Here’s the thing. The first thing you need to understand about strategic integration is you’re not going to understand all of it. There are going to be things you won’t get and that’s okay. The key is finding people who can explain it to you like you’re not an idiot AND who you trust to 1) empower to make smart decisions that you will support OR 2) to give you the data and analysis that you can use to make informed decisions yourself. That’s it. Those are your options.

At a certain point in your career, it becomes clear that within some organizations that you can just BS your way through interactions with people who won’t be able to keep up with your pace and thus allowing you to make bad decisions within a vacuum. If I tell you something costs millions of dollars and you don’t understand it and I flub those millions through bad decision-making, who is going to call into question the whole enterprise when no one really understands what we’re doing?

This is really about leadership, but for a lot of people it’s about just how much they can throw in your face statistics that bolster their claims. Outthinking your opposition when they’re bad at chess isn’t really a feat to be proud of, it just means you’re going to lose when you face a more formidable opponent.