The “True But Useless” Problem


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In the social business world we hear about a lot of truths that practitioners, analysts, vendors, and consultants throw out into the air. In fact listening to the discussions around social business today is a bit like walking into a flea market where everyone is screaming at you trying to get you to come to their table. The problem with truth is that by itself it isn’t always very helpful. As an example you can take any discussion around social business (such as social CRM) and see that when you start to dissect the conversations and concepts of what a social business really is you find yourself down a never ending rabbit hole. Social CRM is supposed to be all about connecting with your customers in meaningful and mutually beneficial way right? However, these discussions usually go something like this:

Client: I’m interested in building better relationships with my customers

Practitioner: Ok great but before we do that we need to look at how your company collaborates internally

Client: Ok

Practitioner: We also need to look at your legacy systems to see what type of data collect and how it’s integrated with new social tools

Client: …Ok

Practitioner: Then we need to take a look at your corporate culture and make sure it’s aligned across the company

Client: …&%$!?

Practitioner: Oh, and then we need to make sure we look at all of your current customer initiatives to see what’s going on there. We’re also going to need to improve how your sales, marketing, and support teams work together.

Client: …$%^$^&!?!?

Practitioner: Now we need to look at adoption strategies and plans for how your company collaborates and then we can finally explore how to properly engage your customers in a meaningful way, but of course not before we deal with all the change management issues you are going to be overwhelmed with.

Client: …&^!#$%^&()*&&(!(?!!?!?!?

Did I go in the exact order and cover everything in any particular order? No, the point here is to illustrate that when a client asks for something sometimes we are very quick to point out everything else that is wrong and what else needs to be fixed. Now, are all those things above true? Absolutely, but are all those things useful to the client? Chances are no.

The problem is that we are focusing too much on things that are “true but useless,” meaning that if a client comes to you asking how to make an omelette and you tell them that need to first make a chicken, then you’re pointing out something that while true, isn’t really going to help anyone, again, true but useless.

At the NRF conference in New York, Dan Heath (author of Switch) was talking about a doctor (whose name I can’t remember) who went to a town in Vietnam (I believe) to help solve the problem of mal-nourishment amongst children. This was in an impoverished place that suffered from poor sanitation, lack of running water, disease, poor education, and probably dozens of other problems. So did that mean that in order to solve mal-nourishment all of these other problems needed be solve first? No. The fact that those problems existed was true, but at the time useless. Instead what the doctor did is look at the few children that were healthy and examined their daily diet and activity to find out if what they ate or did kept them healthy. It turned out that the diet the healthy kids had was different and just needed to replicated for the mal-nourished kids. The problems of poor sanitation, lack of education, and no running water did not have to be solved first.

Now before anyone starts yelling at me or calling me crazy, I’m not stating that social business is easy and I’m not stating that the things above aren’t important. I’m simply stating that we need to shift from “true but useless,” to “true but useful.”

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jacob Morgan
I'm a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and futurist who explores what the future of work is going to look like and how to create great experiences so that employees actually want to show up to work. I've written three best-selling books which are: The Employee Experience Advantage (2017), The Future of Work (2014), and The Collaborative Organization (2012).


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