I have met the greatest of all evils and its name is Satisficing.
OK, it’s not a name, per se, but a mashup of two words – satisfy and suffice. Squint and you could probably find the real meaning in there, too – sacrifice. Satisficing is the greatest of all evils. Here’s why.
Your message isn’t heard because your listener quickly pigeon-holed you after your first two sentences. How did this happen to your carefully crafted elevator speech? Simple.
You used a cliché, an expression, a buzzword or another easy tag that allowed them to say, “Got it, I know exactly what bucket to put you in. There. You’re categorized. I don’t have to listen anymore.”
Your creative isn’t working because your marketing chief gave the responsibility of positioning the product to the creatives at the agency, and they don’t do positioning – they do creative. Why did this happen to the product you spent the better part of 18 months delivering? Easy. The marketing guy did the easy thing – he gave the assignment of “advertising” it to the “advertising” agency. He didn’t do the rigorous positioning work, the metaphor elicitation with customers, the ethnological and anthropological observational in situ research. “We know our customers. We don’t need to do that.” And so your positioning work is now in the hands of a designer.
Your innovative idea is tamped down because the grizzled veterans of the company won’t let it happen. Why? “We tried that once and it didn’t work.” They tried what they think they heard you say, but they didn’t try what you’re thinking, in the way you were planning on implementing it, with the level of expertise you would be able to deliver it with. They stopped listening when they thought they heard what they heard. They didn’t get it. And you now have an uphill struggle because the rest of the organization satisfices by remembering what your grizzlies had to say about your so-called new idea.
Satisficing means we don’t have to think anymore. We’re busy. We’ve seen it all, heard it all, done it all, and don’t need any more because we’re intellectually lazy.
How do we avoid this pitfall?
Create new mental models – and most importantly, create new descriptions for our ideas. Avoid clichés like the plague. When we hear “mission critical” or “enterprise class” or anything that warrants having quotes around it, throw it out and think of another way to say it. Anything that sounds like copy is something we should throw out and re-work. Awkward beats slick if we’re aiming for stickiness.
Remember that we’re aiming for being memorable. Because we’ll categorize you if we can. That’s how we’re wired.