Michael D. Moberly
This is what we aspire; influence business decision makers to consider how-why it is in their interest to re-consider the gravitational pull of past practice, i.e., this is the way we have always done it, why is change warranted now. (See also “What is a Decision Maker in a Company?” https://www.tenfold.com/sales-coaching/decision-maker-company
We suspect every entrepreneurial business team has heard this refrain more times than they care to remember. The act and art of effectively – successfully pitching a new product or service has produced minutia of usually well-intentioned sub-genres. Browsing any online book seller, one can find countless, books advocating an assortment of strategies geared specifically toward pitching a new product-service to prospective buyers-clients who otherwise may be unfamiliar or have variously exhibited reluctance. Often, these books are framed – chaptered in the proverbial ‘quick and easy step’ methodologies, i.e., how to – what-not-to-do’. Entrepreneurs and management teams only wish it were so simple and straight-forward.
That said, we wish not to cast dispersion on any of the authors or their books, or the book proposals and manuscripts which, no doubt, are already at some stage of development and almost sure to be published as representing a new, different, or much nuanced ‘pitch model’.
Most entrepreneurs are familiar with ‘pitch’ challenges…
We suspect, as many entrepreneurs before us have, persuading a management team to pursue a different or alternative path from what they and their company culture have achieved and become accustom, whether it be by practice, policy, or regulatory mandate, find recognizing the benefits of change challenging to accept, sometimes, irrespective of the clarity, objective, and experiential evidence presented and the probability of lucrative, competitive, and sustainable outcomes and returns for their company in near term.
Would it not be logical to assume that some ‘pitches’ should be simple…
Especially, when company’s c-suite’s are introduced to (and, come to acknowledge) the universal economic fact, that today, 80+% of most (their) company’s value, sources of revenue, competitiveness, and sustainability lie in – emerge directly from intangible (non-physical) assets, not tangible (physical) assets, receptivity to considering intangible assets to become action items on their respective agendas would quickly prompt favorable consideration.
Past practice and this is the way we’ve always done it…
Past practice is admittedly a powerfully influential custom, routine, and occasionally, even an emotion laden procedure or process which requires artful and overwhelmingly compelling rationale and timing to overcome.
Knowing each of these circumstances well, and first hand, prompted us to pay particular-attention to a recently released study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and its subsequent discussion on NPR (National Public Radio’s) Morning Edition (December 7, 2017) titled ‘Why Your Brain Has Trouble Bailing Out Of A Bad Plan’.
How does a company know when it’s time to modify past practices…?
Applying NPR’s discussion on this topic as an example, let’s say you are driving your car and approaching an intersection. The street light turns yellow, suggesting you should preferably stop, but, if not, proceed with caution. But, in this instance, the driver elects to increase their speed, intending to proceed through the intersection. In doing so, the driver sees a police car. The driver recognizes they have made an error in judgment. Interestingly, there is a good chance the driver will proceed through the intersection anyway, according to Susan Courtney, a professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University who was part of a team of researchers who conducted a study on this matter.
The reason why a driver is likely to proceed through a yellow (caution) light at an intersection, even with the presence of a police car, is because, as one area of our (the driver’s) brain is recognizing the presence of the police car, while other areas in our brain have already begun carrying out our – the driver’s original plan, i.e., to accelerate and proceed through the intersection under the yellow cautionary light. More specifically, the studies’ findings also point out that, even if the driver has yet to commence physically moving their foot toward or depress the car’s accelerator, their brain has already initiated the plan to do precisely that.
So, stopping a (bad) plan once it’s already underway…
Yes, stopping most any plan, once it’s underway (within our brain, that is) requires a lot of extra ‘brainpower’ to reverse, if that’s even possible. It all becomes very complicated, very quickly, as this study’s researchers described in their findings published recently in the journal, Neuron.
For this study, a Johns Hopkins University research team monitored the brain activity of 21 people (i.e., research participants) as they encountered situations purposefully made comparable to the car driving story described above. The studies’ participants were asked to focus on a central point on a screen before them, and wait for a target to appear elsewhere on the screen. Occasionally, the participants were-allowed-to shift their gaze to the target when it appeared on the screen. At other times, the participants would receive a visual cue, initiated by a researcher, intended to overrule their impulse to shift their gaze to the target. Doing so would require them to (intellectually) cancel that (initial) action which their brain was already about to execute.
The research team learned from this that all-of-the communication (to a study participant) had to occur in a time frame of one-tenth of one second, i.e., the time when a participant (car driver) observed the cue not to change their eye (gaze). After the one-tenth of a second had elapsed, the signal would have already been sent to the participant’s (car driver’s) eye muscles, which the researchers found it then, virtually impossible (for a participant) to stop.
Physical – intellectual lag time…
This lag time is why drivers, ala including business decision makers, experience an extremely brief window of time when their brain knows-recognizes they should not accelerate through an intersection during a yellow (cautionary) light in the presence of a police car. But their foot depresses their cars’ accelerator anyway. In other words, once a signal has been sent to our brain, we (a driver, a business decision maker) can, if they choose, observe their foot actually depress their cars accelerator without being able to stop it.
From these observations, the researchers concluded that people’s brain’s, specifically, our internal ‘stop mechanism-system’ is involved in a lot more than merely controlling various body movements. It’s not only about whether one can stop their foot from depressing a car’s accelerator, it’s can also be about changing the plan which has been sent to our brains, about anything and everything.
So, what is fair to extrapolate from this study, insofar as business decision making…
Is it fair to extrapolate, from the findings of this study, that this-may-be-why we, as humans (via, our respective brains) experience challenges to bail out of, or otherwise reverse, bad plans once its execution has commenced intellectually?
Too, perhaps, once people (irrespective of position, capacity, experiential base, etc.) become acculturated – accustom to a particular-set of practices and/or procedures, be they business decision makers or automobile drivers, etc., in terms of this is the way it’s always been done, seldom can-will there be much, if any, receptivity to change or consider potentially viable (business operating) alternatives. For example, the recognition – incorporation of intangible assets, even when there is clear, unequivocal, and objective economic evidence that doing so consistently carry – produce strong probabilities for producing-delivering substantially more favorable (lucrative, competitive, and sustainable) returns and outcomes to plans.
Interestingly, Russ Poldrack, (professor of psychology at Stanford University) not part of the Johns Hopkins study referenced above, says, one function of our brain systems ‘stop an action mechanism’ may actually-help people avoid danger and be more cautious in making choices, therefore, they are likely to take fewer risks, in business, and otherwise.
Note: The content of the study cited here has been adapted by Michael D. Moberly for this at his ‘Business Intangible Asset Blog’. A special thanks to NPR’s Morning Edition for airing this segment on December 7, 2017 and to researchers Kitty Z. Xu, Brian A. Anderson, Erik E. Emeric, Anthony W. Sali, Veit Stuphorn, Steven Yantis, and Susan M. Courtney, Departments of Psychological, Brain Sciences, and Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD