Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

Dealing with Idea Ghost Images 3

I find this fascinating:

"Yes, I think it’s a really good idea, and everybody around here really likes it, but what I’m worried about is that when I talk about it everybody I’m talking to sees what they think I’m saying, what they want to be the idea, rather than the real idea."

I’m not going to cite the author of that quote, because it could embarrass him with the others on his team, but it was in a phone call last week.

It reminded me that what he’s talking about is a common phenomenon. Until I find a better description, I’m referring to the misunderstood images of the original idea as Idea Ghost Images, a reference to the shadow images you get on television when you have problems with the antenna. They are a reflection of the original images, but they’re off. And the more of them you have, the greater the problem.

Have you seen this happen in your business world? Where there’s an idea being discussed but each person imagines something slightly (or maybe more than slightly) different? And sometimes companies will move forward and commit to budgets and tasks and strategy without realizing that each person is agreeing to something different. That can cause a whole lot of problems.

It’s closely related to what we  call getting everybody on the same page. Maybe we should call it asynchronous idea management, but that’s probably getting too techie with the language.

The solution, I think, is completely obvious. It’s part of the normal planning process. Define the idea in a concrete way — document, email, presentation, something that can be recorded and referred to later — and manage it through that idea definition.

It’s amazing, though, easy solution or not, how far we get sometimes without really dealing with those ghost images.  I think it’s a common problem.

  • Bamabrad

    This is a common communication breakdown-best to have receiver to repeat back to sender what they heard and how they interpret the message-this will give the sender the opportunity to verify or correct the receiver's interpretation.

  • Bamabrad

    This is a common communication breakdown-best to have receiver to repeat back to sender what they heard and how they interpret the message-this will give the sender the opportunity to verify or correct the receiver's interpretation.

  • Avi D

    Hi Tim,
    It's actually also connected to cognitive dissonance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance). Makes everybody accept what you're saying in the terms that are most favorable to them – they interpret it the way they want.
    Love Scott Adams (dilbertblog.typepad.com) descriptions of it too…