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The Cost of the Silver Hand

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In versus out—does it even matter?

It does in Minnesota. It’s 33°F right now—not so cold—but in less than 30 days we’ll plunge well below 0°F and stay there for a month or two. Being inside matters when the outside temperature is cold.

About “inside,” you remember high school, yes? Being an insider seemed to matter there: being part of the groovy clique seemed to say a lot about your identity. But it turned out that the cost paid for being an insider was higher than we realized.

You get inside by exploiting insider behaviors: hang with other insiders, use insider words, allow the insider frame of reference to settle on you and gradually think insider thoughts. There is a certain warmth to being inside. Sometimes it’s safe and cozy. Sometimes staying inside means forming alliances and battling for diminishing territories. A friend recently used those words to describe his years inside a large retailer based in Minneapolis—he left when the cost of alliances and battles was greater than his paycheck.

The classic insider mistake is to think inside is all there is. And that mistake is murder when the layoff discussion happens in the HR office on a bright, cold Friday afternoon. Or when you graduate high school.

But being on the inside is good when you also recognize voices from the fringe. That sort of consciousness allows new thoughts to infect the inside, possibly even countermanding the inbred thinking of insiders talking to insiders.

Lately I’ve been stimulated by reading The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion, by Hagel, Brown and Davison (NY: Basic Books, 2010). In particular, their talk about what the edge person brings to the discussion seems fitting. The edge person is working at something different than the insider. The edge person is trying to accomplish something in a different way and so is asking different questions. The edge person asks questions the insider doesn’t even consider. And it turns out those questions are sometimes the very questions the leaders of the insiders wish they were asking.

My favorite scene in Canal Digital’s “Silver Hand” is at the bar when our hero tries to casually drop the Silver Hand reference.

What a lovely fail.

The smart insider acquaints herself with the habitat and questions of the edge person.

And vice versa.


Via Canal digital

How To Pitch a Medical Device Company #4: Deliver Different (Not as Easy as It Sounds)

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Dumb idea. Wait. That might work.

“Of course,” you might say. “Naturally that’s the point of asking an agency to pitch.” But wait—this is not so easily accomplished. Words and ideas in MedTech become entrenched over time. There are reasons for this, not the least of which is the organization’s internal gating system, organized entirely around the claims they’ve decided they can legally make and can support with the scientific literature and clinical trial conclusions. The gating system also includes those words that fall within the risk tolerance introduced by the legal department. That risk tolerance gets tighter and tighter over time. The internal politics of retaining control over messaging is another reason for entrenchment.

What to do? On the one hand you’ve got seasoned creative minds ready to work out the benefits in a fresh way. On the other hand, it looks like you have a limited set of pathways to follow.

Being an outsider is a huge plus. Your track record outside of MedTech is a huge advantage in the pitch. It creates a platform for you to speak from. A reason for your audience to listen. They’ll be listening for something new, but their antennae will also be up for familiar words that indicate basic levels of understanding of their problems (of which I advocate not pretending).

Brief your team on how to work within and around the framework presented. To stay entirely inside the framework is the curse of living within an organization and heeding the internal rules. But that is not your arena. Knowing all you can about the target audience may help you turn a perceptual problem into an opportunity. One assignment I gave an agency was to turn a therapy largely perceived by spine surgeons as a joke and unproven into a viable option. We had the science behind us and knew how far we could go with the claims. The agency’s resulting concept was a hard sell internally but eventually made it through. The concept shocked the journals so much they initially refused to run it. Know the framework, but as a springboard not a straightjacket.

Don’t forget to play dumb. Being an outsider helps because you can do stuff an insider would know not to do. In fact, this is exactly where you do your best work. And isn’t that how the creative process works—eventually you stumble onto the right thing.

Courage! In the end, doesn’t it always come down to belief in the thing you are presenting? Help them see why it is such a great idea—but you know that. That is where you excel.


Image Credit: Bertrall O. via OBI Scrapbook Blog

Written by kirkistan

June 18, 2012 at 5:00 am

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