Friday, April 3, 2009

Smoke and Mirrors: The Futility of Proprietary Models and Techniques

It seems fashionable for consultancies, researchers and agencies to tout proprietary techniques and models. Most seem to have at least one trademarked gizmo up their sleeves. But while these creatively named schemes may create some PR buzz for their pitchmen, techniques and models have little practical value on their own.

Inventing new techniques and models is driven by the desire to differentiate. Another driving factor is failure. Too many business people have seen the tried and true techniques and models fail, so they, like their consulting counterparts assume the techniques and models must be flawed. The harsh reality is that it is the practitioners who failed. And a new technique in the same hands is likely to produce similar results.

Research techniques and business models are nothing more than tools. And like all tools, each has inherent strengths and weaknesses. Choosing which, when and how to use them is the purview of people. Boxes and circles on a model filled in by a strategically gifted thinker will produce a sharper recommendation than the same model filled out by someone less gifted. Focus groups conducted by someone who understands human psychology will provide greater insight than those conducted by someone who believes that human behavior is completely rational.

Ability trumps tools every time. Who would you rather eat dinner with, a good cook working in a deficient kitchen or an average cook working in a professional kitchen? It is better to choose a strategic partner based on his skill rather than the shininess of his tools.

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