Do you remember when you were a toddler, and how during bathtime, you took perverse joy in drinking the bathwater, maybe making a little fountain with your mouth? It’s kind of a standard requirement for taking baths and being a kid. So now that you’ve grown up, maybe it’s time to stop! But maybe you don’t even realize you’re doing it. Sometimes there’s a fine line between positive self-talk and self-delusion, or positive team attitude and “drinking your own bath water and calling it champagne”. In my personal work, I’ve seen this play out in a few different ways. One example was while trying to work with a group that was focused on small business and “think local” approaches. They tended to spend so much time in feelgood dialogs about their philosophy that nothing ever seemed to get done. I’ve encountered the same phenomena working with activists and non-profits, when a lot of people attend a rally, and folks go home feeling like they’re changing the world, but use no metrics to verify their belief, while an energized and motivated political organization trounces their efforts quietly behind the scenes. Yet another form of this I see quite often is when a business owner or media team tackles their web strategies, and confuses the process of setting up social media accounts, tweaking SEO, and checking metrics with Google Analytics with actually building business. A hundred new likes for your small business might feel good, but how many of those likes were from your existing networks, and how many of them translated to conversions? And more page views are great, but are the right people viewing the page?
The solution in almost any of these situations is simple. GO OUTSIDE. No, I don’t mean leave the building, I mean reach outside your existing associates, team, or company, and get some objective metrics. This can be as simple as doing surveys via some tool like Survey Monkey, tapping your network for connections with expertise and asking opinions, or even paying a suitable consultant to look at things for you. A couple hundred dollars spent now to avoid wasting hundreds or thousands later is one of the best investments you might ever make. So if you have a project that’s been in development for a while, but seems to have lost its juice even though everyone involved is laboring away, assuming it’s a great idea, maybe it’s time to ponder the thought that maybe it’s not a great idea. Or was, but got off track, and just needs some refocusing. You might even find the critique you need right in your own ranks. You know that killjoy in the corner who always seems to have a criticism, no matter how jazzed everyone else seems about an idea? Maybe it’s time to snuggle up with them in their wet blanket, stop drinking your own bathwater, and pop a few bitter pills.
Recently, a friend shared an old joke that summarizes this kind of Baghdad Bob behavior: