Beyond Lovemarks: Fouroboros engages

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Mark at fouroboros has fired off another batch of conversation grenades partly in response to my continuing anti-Lovemarks postings. I’m on the record as a big fan, and this post is a cracker a mix of elegant thought and blunt language.

A few more complicated diagrams than I can normally handle but great ideas in here.

The explicit steals attention

Here’s one that resonates with me.


In fact, I’ve been using the same iceberg metaphor myself in conversations for a while. The focus on the bit we can see is part of the tyranny of the explicit, on which I’ve commented before here and here.

A friend was trying to sell a creative thinking course to a corporate and in response was told that unless the “deliverables” were made clear, the person wouldn’t buy in. Because she was “accountable” to her colleagues. A client asked me to list the exercises I would use on a training in one column, with the intended learning points in the other. I refused. Bascially to do so is to deny the reality of any kind of creative learning – which is that WE DON’T KNOW where it will take us.

Do we always need solutions?

Another manifestation of the tyranny of the explicit is the insistence that if someone only identifies a problem, without offering a solution, they are being “negative”. It’s part of a mentality that can’t abide confusion, uncertainty and the stage of creative chaos that precedes leaps forward and growth. It also ignores the way that groups of people can solve problems – in collaborative thinking, if one person takes on the role of critic, maybe someone else gets to play the role of synthesier or solution provider.

Throwing ourselves at the problem

Here’s another blast from Mark

many of us become economic irrationalists viewing it more wise to throw money at a problem or situation, because our organizations do not sanction or structure themselves to allow us to throw ourselves INTO a problem or work. But collectively, we don’t and won’t do any throwing when bosses… insist on ghostwriting every bit of the dialogue and scripting “acceptable” denouements before the adventure’s even begun

That’s a great turn of phrase: throwing money at a problem instead of showing up and having the courage to state what one really thinks.

Now there may be times when teams function better when there is a shared explict goal and agreement on how to get there – but I’m increasingly convinced that this is but a superficial rationalisation of something at once more complex and more simple. The more simple bit is (I think) that basically people want to get along, and prefer to travel into the unknown in company rather than alone. The complex bit is all the bits of human interaction going on out of awareness, stuff that can never really be mapped explicitly, and doesn’t really need to be.

Here’s an example. A friend explained to me that he’s learning to manage the phase of parenthood where his daughter is now 18 and must be treated as an adult, yet in some ways is also still a child. He was on holiday and she rang him from her mobile. She was in a town he’d never been to, but she was lost and couldn’t find her destination. Now if we focus on the explicit, there would be no point speaking to her father, who has no map of the town and could only offer the advice to ask for directions, which would hardly be rocket science. Nevertheless, they engaged in a ping pong conversation where he offered suggestions like this, and she didn’t act on them. After four minutes, she suddenly announced “Oh, I’ve found it now” and rang off. Was this a pointless conversation? I say No. The point was she had a simple human need for a little companionship in uncertainty, she didn’t really need – or probably expect – an explicit answer even though on the surface that’s what she was looking for.

Similarly, my friend described the challenge of adjusting to this new uncertain phase of parenting. Did he want, or need, any of the no doubt thousand of books written by experts on how to manage this important transition. No! Because – I think – we are actually humanly programmed to muddle through these things, and it’s more fun to work it out for ourselves than be told how to.

Maybe this is the point of all this…

What on earth has any of this got to do with branding? Well, I think if we look at what really gets people working together, it may be none of logical things that most consultants draw those wretched spidery diagrams about. It may, indeed, be the opposite of that. I think that most of this brand strategy just gets in the way of answering the more interesting challege we each face daily: how shall we go on together?

Indeed, it occurs to me I may have reached the nub of what I dislike about Lovemarks. Which is that this simple desire for, and ability to create, companionship in uncertainty; this basic human instinct for collaboration – this is Love. It is the very opposite of the shallow, adrenalised attachment to material things and abstract ideas that Kevin Roberts’ tiresome book eulogises.

And if you don’t understand, don’t worry. Neither do I really. It’s not a problem.

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