The karaoke curse
Just finished listening to Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations That Accelerate Change By: Chris Ertel, Lisa Kay Solomon. Its amazing how many things apply across all industries and even nicer when an expert in one of those industries agrees with me!
In Chapter 8, “Confronting the Yeah-Buts”, the authors referenced three types of Yeah-Buts that can undermine Strategic Conversations: office politics, near-term-ism and the karaoke curse. What are Yeah-Buts? Its a term coined by innovation strategy pioneer Larry Keeley used to describe thoughts like “Yeah, sure this all sounds good, BUT, here’s why that would never work in my organization ….” It relates to the challenges of resistance to change in an organization that would lead to Moments of Impact.
Chris goes into each type of Yeah-But in detail, but what caught my ear was the karaoke curse that reinforces thoughts I shared in a blog earlier this year. Chris references the American Idol phenomenon “that taps into the fantasy that the average person, with a bit of practice, can transform into the next superstar”. Chris writes, “alas, talent doesn’t work that way. While we all have more natural aptitude for some things than others, raw talent doesn’t amount to much without a lot of effort. People that appear to have amazing NATURAL talent have to have put in at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, such as Yo-Yo Ma who started playing cello at age 4.”
He refers to “karaoke skills” as ones “where someone’s confidence exceeds their competence.” He continues “driving is a classic karaoke skill because survey’s show that the vast majority of people rate themselves as above average drivers. By contrast, there are a few things that are definitely not karaoke skills: brain surgery, nuclear physics, gymnastics, Chinese calligraphy and firefighting. If you rarely or never do these things, you wouldn’t kid yourself that you’re good at them. Strategic conversations tend to surface a number of karaoke skills including presenting, group facilitation, collaboration and strategic thinking” Chris closes by saying “Like any serious skill, these skills take time to master and you can quickly determine a blackbelt when you see them in action”. Just because you choose to do something, the choice alone won’t make you a black belt.
I would add to that list, storytelling and effective video production. Why is it that people think that buying a camera, or phone that has a camera is akin to becoming a talented producer/director of quality content? Whether staff or on contract, why is it assumed that just about anyone is qualified to handle the companies content marketing and content production activities? If you said cost, I would agree. It doesn’t make sense. And it is proven day in and day out by the crap that’s uploaded to YouTube, the net effect of which is not a positive business result but a torpedoing of a brand.
It brings to mind the concept of a supposed overnight success. With most accused of such success saying it as the longest, darkest night you could imagine, usually spanning more a decade.
And the laughable sea of DIY (do-it-yourself) books/courses where, no matter the skill, if you read a book, take a course or watch a YouTube “how to” video, you can do anything. In Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? , Seth Godin writes “We are surrounded by manual readers. But if you can put it in a manual, you can outsource it. Average is over. No one deserves to get paid a lot for a job that can be done by following a manual. As a result of the tsunami of pretty good and the persistence of really lousy, the market for truly exceptional has never been better. Its not the craft, that’s the easy part. It takes art. Roy Simmons coined the phrase “most artists can’t draw”. But all artists can SEE. We can see what’s right and what’s wrong, we can see opportunities and we can see around corners. Its the art of value creation that is now being rewarded. Art is anything that is creative, passionate and personal. And GREAT art resonates with the VIEWER, not only the creator.”
I am reminded of a real life example, Casey Neistat. I saw this award winner speak at a conference about the now famous “Make it count” video that Nike paid him to do in 2012. At the start of the video, he belittles the artistry of the craft with a text super reading “Instead of making their movie, I spent the entire budget traveling around the world with my friend Max”. Casey showed the video at the conference and spoke about his adventure, sharing that he had no formal education, not even high school, and was confident that with a positive attitude, an idea and a camera, anyone could do what he did. Afterwards, he answered some questions. One young lady indicated that she was just getting started and, understanding the impact of quality on first impressions, was concerned that she could not afford professionals. Casey said “no problem. You don’t actually need professionals. Do you have a phone with an HD camera? Perfect! That’s all you need.” Talent and craft be damned I guess. What he neglected to share was the fact the he had been grinding out films since 2001!! Not quite the overnight success that he made it seem and terribly misleading to his audience.
He’s not the only one with similar thoughts. Is it any wonder why the storytelling craft has been oversimplified and why most marketing goes down in flames? I would argue that Casey's talent is the exception, not the rule, and dare anyone to debate me on it. There's a lot more to telling a great story than having a camera in your phone.
I know of more than one company that has fallen victim to the KARAOKE CURSE because a decision was made based on oversimplification and price. The end result went in the garbage, not onto YouTube. And some companies have even done it wrong TWICE! It makes about as much sense as me telling you I could do your job as well as you do just because I decided to.
With budgets growing tighter everyday, and the downside of content that reflects badly on a brand given the importance of first impressions, does the choice of production partner not become even more mission-critical so that the funds invested aren't wasted? Just asking.
For those contemplating how best to produce great stories on video that produce the intended business result, please remember this reference from Hill Street Blues: “Let’s be careful out there.”