The Buddha is said to have pointed at the Moon to indicate its wonders to his disciples. They immediately copied him, raising their own arms to point. They were concerned with getting it right. They had many questions: should they point with their whole hand, or just a finger? Should the palm be raised upwards or lowered? Was the pointing best done with the right or the left arm?
They, of course, did not really see the Moon, because of their concerns about getting the pointing right. In their desire for perfection they missed the wonder.
It is easy to get caught up in technique when we learn anything new, and miss the point of what we are doing it for, miss the bigger picture. And therefore people often get caught up in trying to master the technique of pointing, rather than truly being able to simply admire the wonder of the Moon.
This happens during training for Agile sometimes, a radically new way of working that essentially is about a different mindset. Enthusiasts for Agile ways of working call out improved efficiencies and removal of waste of time activities that litter heritage ways of working. Yet it has a very different language and routines. During training it is easy to get caught up in the exactly right way to run a stand up or a scrum. The real point is that the new rhythms and ceremonies can be adapted to a team’s own needs.
Another example of this danger lies in over-optimising media. When we optimise a plan into what ends up being a suboptimal position, because we are just so good at refining efficiencies we lose sight of effectiveness.
When we over-target, convinced that the more we hone our planning to focus on exactly the bullseye demographic, and miss the brilliant brand effect that comes from reaching more people. As the great Jeremy Bullmore once said: “If BMW only ever targeted people who are in the market to buy a BMW in the next year, there soon wouldn’t be very many of them.” Because one of the reasons you buy a BMW is to be the envy of your friends and neighbours who can’t buy one.
Putting our faith in new promises of attribution modelling, when it is very difficult to get it more than approximately right.
Regularly repeating the same task without questioning what you are doing it for in the first place. This can especially occur at the start of your career when you are learning your craft. If you are bored by what you are doing, and you don’t know why you are doing it, challenge it. It is entirely possible that it could be automated, eliminated or substituted for something better.
Detail is important. But when the whole task becomes about how you do it, and you don’t have sight of the bigger picture, then you may well lose the point of what you are doing in the first place. Look for the moon, don’t worry about how you point the finger. See the whole of the Moon.
Sue Unerman is chief transformation officer at MediaCom