Example of the Value of Perception


Mark Suster has a great example of how the brand thing works in real life:

I can’t make this up. One day I’m the business weenie and the next day I’m the technical geek simply because a piece of paper and a process says so. And the whole world just accepted that.


And to make some of your blood boil, the gender bias was horrible. I worked in Rome on a small team with a really smart young woman named Elisabetta. She WAS an engineer and plenty technical. Yet when the senior leadership came into our room to discuss technical problems on the project they always discounted her and even worse always made her take notes and type up the results of our discussions.

He describes what is often a double bias I contend with — business person and she person. In many organizations it's still a very uniform group at the top and the guy gets picked to run the show.

It takes a lot of daily patience to keep working on the most pressing problems, signing up for projects with fast turn aroun, in short, hustling… and there are no guarantees. As Mark says further in the post, we have wonderful brains and yet minds are incredibly and inexplicably selective on what they recall — perception rules:

And there you have it. It took exactly one day until nobody respected my technical skills any more.

I was now a PowerPoint weenie. An excel ninja. A professional bullshitter. You know, ask the client for his watch and tell him what time it was. I was a stereotype. A brand. I was a strategy consultant.

Hard to believe any human being could be BOTH technical AND business savvy, isn't it? Unless, of course you are the stuff of legend, a veritable Leonardo da Vinci. (or you are/become filthy rich/are perceived as influential, in that case everyone will line up to pick your brain for coffee with an open hand)

Heavens forbid a strategist is also a doer, with operational smarts and experience to boot. Where did you get that wild idea from?

Compounding the difficulty of overcoming perception and single-idea thinking are faulty algorithms that make up classifications and the sheer distraction of people clicking to endorse them without the first bit of experience in having seen you at work (as the image depicts in this post).

Labels say a lot about you, which is why how you explain what you do is important. They say a lot about the person who classifies you as well, possibly even more about them. The hardest thing for anyone to do is to change someone's mind.

Mark's advice is solid and he got the order right:

First, live the brand. Then define the brand. Then communicate it carefully but often.

Even in the extremely mobile and flat world of work in which we live today, overcoming perception is often more than half the battle. Sadly.



Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
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