Thursday, July 24, 2008

Vantage point

We do know cerebrally that all of life & all knowledge is interconnected. However, it is sometimes the silos which protect us from the vast stormy seas out there and we take refuge. A non-marketing person like me hears the word ‘positioning’ and decides to sleepwalk through the class because it is a marketing subject. I don’t need to know more than enough to answer my exam. Or do I?

Some random unconnected cells of my brain decided to talk to each other – so many things around were pushing them to make the awkward social contact. Some of those I am about to write about.

A certain company recruits some greenhorns and tells them that at the end of the one year long road, they will be sent away to the northern most populated country in the world. A few harmless jokes about the inexpressiveness of the people & the long dark winter are enough for those greenhorns to kick up a big fuss and not want to go there. Then the company wisens up and takes a different position for the next set. They are told that they will get to go to the land of a thousand lakes if & only if they drive along the one year road very well and arrive at its end successfully. It would be their reward for a job well done, to go to the magical land of Moomin and corporate Himalayas. This set is suddenly dreamy eyed about that very same land. It promised adventure & excitement, but more importantly, going there will be a symbol of success, of having met expectations, of having done well. It meant validation & confidence. It was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – it made them want to run towards it. It was a goal to strive for, not a bump in the road their predecessors thought they must brace for. Just changing the rhetoric and nothing else changed the meaning of the experience.

It’s the same reason I have always loved Tom Sawyer. The little kid understood the power of positioning & got his fence painted & managed to get paid by other people doing his work without lifting a finger himself.

It’s like society collectively positioning marriage to women. The ring, the party, the status. ‘You will never be an old maid’. The impact of marriage on an individual woman can be debated endlessly. But it is mere positioning that makes little girls dream about princes, white weddings & picket fences.

Positioning is an art for anyone who wants to sell – products, services, ideas, thoughts, ideologies… It is about knowing those who you sell to, knowing what it is that you are selling and knowing how to marry the two. It is to know which parts to light up and where to let the shadows fall. The simplistic & the pessimistic could call it manipulation. I think it is genius. If all of life is a jagged surface, then positioning is to find the smooth strip where to land your copter on.

This makes me think about something organizations do. Faulty & incomplete as it is, it’s common colloquial practice in organizations to segregate work/jobs as strategic or operational. Consciously, we do understand that planning & execution are too tightly linked & looped to have a real dividing line. But habit & ease have made it commonplace to use this distinction.
Ofcourse it’s true that operational work is as important to the success of an organization, but how many of us aspire to do it? Does it have the glamour of thinking ahead, thinking different, being pioneers in our own way? If operational means mechanical means routine means boring – is it sensible to allow the nomenclature to exist? What is the cost of inaction? If most of the employees will do operational jobs – can an organization allow them to think of their jobs as mundane & bring only part of their minds & hearts to work? If all employees are internal customers, is the faulty positioning cutting into customer delight or in this case employee engagement?
If work needs to be broken down to make it intelligible, divisible & doable, is the parameter of operational & strategic the optimal one? The work remaining the same, we need to find new eyes to look at it. So what is the solution? I think it is not merely about a cosmetic change of name. I don’t know what it is, but it will be one of those Eureka answers – simple & beautiful.


Artemis Fowl III said...

almost no one in a "JOB" is putting in his 100%, whether by ability or interest... say we just put in our 70%... but left on their own, how many will be able to put in more than 70%??? in fact, they would do only 50%

my point is that there are some things that require collective action... and usually that action is driven by the thought of a single individual... that guy put 90% of his ability so that others could put in their 70% that would add up... else others would just put in their 50% in possibly mutually conflicting ways...

positioning is actually morphed reality... it relies on abstraction, which is generally ambiguous... it works simply because our human heads do not work on facts and logic but imaginations and justifications... as an employer, i would prefer cribbers who work more than silent cows that just lie there... some individual "feel good misguidance" is required for societal efficiency...

the answer you seek probably lies in the theory of adam smith v/s that of john nash... of individual best choice v/s group best choice... it is the heart of game theory strategies... everyone cant take a call on mutually conflicting macro-payoffs, so the organisation does it on our behalf...

ps: about positioning marriage to women - its more than just positioning...

Pizzicato Hana said...

not sure how i stumbled here.
But it's wonderful reading your post. wonderful.
I want to travel to lots of cities too.