An anti-dote to talking in circles

I need to remember the anti-dote for getting out of circular discussion. I’ve found myself in a few of these lately and forgot to pull the rip cord.

These discussions typically go something like:

“I think we should make this new product. It ties together clever insight #1 and clever insight #2, so it is sure to work!” (Please pat me on the back for my clever thinking!)

“What about about insight #3? Doesn’t that go against what you just said?”

“Well, I’m not sure that applies.”

Then, more back and forth and the circle continues. Nothing gets accomplished, except some folks might win some brownie points here or there from others for sounding like they presented a smarter case.

How do you pull the rip cord on circular discussions? Rather than try to counter, I encourage them to find a way to try and prove out their theory in the real world.

“That doesn’t sound like a bad idea. You never know until you try. What’s the minimal amount of effort you would need to do to see if would work in the real world?”

In other words, encourage them to put their money where their mouth is.

It can be funny at how quickly that can stop them. Just the mere thought of considering their idea standing the true test of reality can be enough to shake their confidence and cause them to consider that it might not be such a good idea after all.

It’s like watching someone trying to hold onto a deflating balloon. “Oh, it’s not my job to try out new ideas. That’s another group.” Or, “Well, we wouldn’t do it the way it ought to be done, anyway.” But, you can hear in their voice that they really liked the idea of having an idea a lot more than proving it out.

They liked the idea of having an untested idea that sounds good. They don’t want to let that go, even if they might learn something.

In one case, the idea was that the company hasn’t spent enough on marketing for awhile, so there’s a whole segment of potential customers out there that doesn’t even know about the product.

Instead of providing the counterpoint that the company has pulled back on marketing because it did not have a good ROI (which was true), I asked how they might prove that out? Can we pick a small market and design a marketing campaign to get a read on how many of those potential customers we could win?

They initially pushed back that one market wouldn’t be enough. Then, if we just tried it in one market, competitors would find out and copy it before we could benefit from it. It would have to be all or nothing and they slowly trailed off as they heard that the words coming out of their mouth were not making much sense.

But, sometimes, good things can happen. The conversation can shift, as it should, to devising creative ways to test the theory and to investigating the company’s history or competitor experiences that might provide some clues to how the idea would work in reality.



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s