Matt Ridings Frustrated

The Danger of Assumptions and Ego

In Digital Transformation by Matt Ridings0 Comments

Prepping For Launch

If you’ve been following along you know that we’re preparing to start releasing information about what we’re working on here at XVA Labs. It’s an exciting time, but also carries with it a fair amount of trepidation. My two partners, Shelly Kramer and Daniel Newman, obviously get to see and help shape the positioning that we’ll go to market with. So I want my own ideas packaged and presented to them as neatly as possible so that when we combine our three brains there’s as much clarity as possible.

And that’s what I did, and I was pretty sure I had a solid set of descriptors and structure to bring to that meeting. However, I’m lucky to have a lot of friends who’ve also done facilitation exercises for situations like this and even though my ego told me it wasn’t really necessary, I set aside a day to work with them on what we call The Critic process.

The Critic

It’s more involved than most of our processes but it goes something like this:

  1. Prep as well as you can for the most likely questions surrounding your objective (in my case, how do you explain what XVA Labs is, how it complements its sister companies V3B and Broadsuite Media Group, and how it solves the issues your prospective clients are facing)
  2. Setup an actual video shoot (this can be as minimal as someone with an iPhone, or if you’re lucky enough to have a crew that owes you a favor you can go all out).
  3. Have an interviewer who knows nothing about your organization, segment their questions and begin asking you to explain what you do, why you do it, why it’s important, and what you’re executing on, etc. Or as we call it “What, So What, What Now”. No question/answer segment can be longer than 5 minutes.
  4. Then you sit down with your team of folks, watch the videos and let them begin the critique. If they have a lot of questions regarding what you meant by a certain phrase or wording. Then you have a problem. So you work with them to find language that is more meaningful and clear. Finding ways to not be defensive during this part can take some practice, but with a good facilitator in the room it’s incredibly productive.

That’s about it. Even having done this for so many years, and knowing how valuable that critique can be, I’ll be honest and say that I felt like I had it pretty much nailed. In my mind this was simply a safety net process, and a way to show off to my friends the cool stuff we’re about to unleash. I’m no more immune to my own ego than anyone else.

Embracing The Pain

It didn’t go that way. By the end of the day they completely understood what XVA Labs had on its hands, but they thought the strategy and approach in communicating that was absolute crap. I was stunned. But I listened, and we started working the whiteboard discussing other approaches, why they were better, etc. And you know what? They were right. It was frustrating because it sent me back to the drawing board of how I was producing content to discuss with my partners, but it is undoubtably better.

The lesson here is pretty simple. On the one hand, I’m not advocating that you ask just anyone to critique your material, strategy, approach, etc. I actually don’t recommend that at all, the ‘power of the crowd’ isn’t as powerful as you think when it comes to things like that. I do however recommend setting the ego aside, and letting a few people you respect, and who have a clear understanding of your target audience, be brutally honest with you.

Yes, I have some edits to make now, and a different approach. Oh well, what’s a little more work. But what I can put in front of Shelly and Daniel will be better, and after they’ve added their own critiques and suggestions what I know is that we’ll have an amazing offering which will be so much more clear to both us, our employees, our partners, and most importantly our customers.

So be careful in your assumptions, and learn to put smarter people than you into a room and listen…intently…to what they have to say. Even if it’s sometimes painful.


Matt Ridings – @techguerilla

Leave a Comment