While knowing the unknown may not be possible, it is certainly possible to imagine the unthinkable.
You have a new brand.
You are engaged in the production of Stuff for which you made an Investment. The Stuff you make requires a huge production Staff and a Factory. The Distribution of the Stuff requires a whole bunch of Trucks. The Sale of the Stuff requires a raft of salespeople traversing the country.
Stuff. Investment. Staff. Factory. Distribution. Trucks. Sales.
These are key messages that Stuff Inc. would like to communicate to the world at large and its stakeholder base about your brand. The Stuff you make is needed by many, desired by all, and you can talk about your commitment to manufacturing, your level of investment, your employment contribution and your efficiency in getting it on the shelves so consumers may buy it at a reasonable price. Nothing but good news here.
But the real story is the one that is sitting in your blind spot.
A blind spot is a point in the human eye where visual information is missing. Normally, the brain compensates for this spot by filling in information from the other eye or from the imagination. Therefore, when you merely look at something, you cannot be sure that what you “see” is exactly what there is. These blind spots are known as “scotomata” – and everybody has them.
By the same token, a company is made up of individual humans, each with a brace of human eyes and a collection of bigger and smaller scotomata. When you are preparing to deliver your Good News to the waiting stakeholders, you must ask yourself – what am I not seeing?
Perhaps your Stuff has harmful side effects. Maybe the Investment you made has been mismanaged. Your Staff may not be uniformly happy. Your Distribution may break down in certain parts of the country. Your Trucks burn dirty fuel. And your Salespeople may be chronic liars….
Out of Sight
Getting the Good News to stakeholders is not a simple task. They will always see your situation from a different perspective. Some of them will want to shine a light into your blind spots and reveal aspects of your business that you have not discussed. This is where communications in companies goes astray. In fact, and in many instances, we are not taking about deliberate deception on your part. This is really a case of others seeing what you cannot.
A sound brand strategy relies on your ability to see the full picture – no dark shadows, no blind spots, no unexplored regions. As a result, many companies who know this may choose voluntarily not to communicate at all rather than run the risk of having something come to light that they may have overlooked.
This is, in my view, a mistaken approach. The fact remains that we can never have 100 percent certainty that we covered all the angles. We may have turned the chess board around several times and still not see the pawn which is about to corner our king.
Knowing the Unknown
By deliberately holding back and saying nothing out of fear, you are also sending a message about Stuff Inc., your nice little company with its nice little story, which tells stakeholders that you may really have something to hide.
If you choose to communicate, your job is simply to explore these possible dark corners, to create What-If scenarios to cover your blind spots. In this case, having an outside view will help apply a new set of eyes – colder and more objective eyes – to try to poke holes in your story. Your consultant, like your doctor, will make a full diagnosis and attempt to see everything before writing any prescription.
While knowing the unknown may not be possible, it is certainly possible to imagine the unthinkable. In this way, you can tell the world about the Stuff that you produce, how you do it, and what benefits it brings. Your blind spots are still there and still essentially dark, but by careful thinking you can be ready to explore them with the stakeholders and keep your nice story about your new business intact.