Beyond Lovemarks: Fouroboros engages

Mark at fouroboros has fired off another batch of conversation grenades partly in response to my continuing anti-Lovemarks postings. I’m on the record as a big fan, and this post is a cracker a mix of elegant thought and blunt language.

A few more complicated diagrams than I can normally handle but great ideas in here.

The explicit steals attention

Here’s one that resonates with me.


In fact, I’ve been using the same iceberg metaphor myself in conversations for a while. The focus on the bit we can see is part of the tyranny of the explicit, on which I’ve commented before here and here.

A friend was trying to sell a creative thinking course to a corporate and in response was told that unless the “deliverables” were made clear, the person wouldn’t buy in. Because she was “accountable” to her colleagues. A client asked me to list the exercises I would use on a training in one column, with the intended learning points in the other. I refused. Bascially to do so is to deny the reality of any kind of creative learning – which is that WE DON’T KNOW where it will take us.

Do we always need solutions?

Another manifestation of the tyranny of the explicit is the insistence that if someone only identifies a problem, without offering a solution, they are being “negative”. It’s part of a mentality that can’t abide confusion, uncertainty and the stage of creative chaos that precedes leaps forward and growth. It also ignores the way that groups of people can solve problems – in collaborative thinking, if one person takes on the role of critic, maybe someone else gets to play the role of synthesier or solution provider.

Throwing ourselves at the problem

Here’s another blast from Mark

many of us become economic irrationalists viewing it more wise to throw money at a problem or situation, because our organizations do not sanction or structure themselves to allow us to throw ourselves INTO a problem or work. But collectively, we don’t and won’t do any throwing when bosses… insist on ghostwriting every bit of the dialogue and scripting “acceptable” denouements before the adventure’s even begun

That’s a great turn of phrase: throwing money at a problem instead of showing up and having the courage to state what one really thinks.

Now there may be times when teams function better when there is a shared explict goal and agreement on how to get there – but I’m increasingly convinced that this is but a superficial rationalisation of something at once more complex and more simple. The more simple bit is (I think) that basically people want to get along, and prefer to travel into the unknown in company rather than alone. The complex bit is all the bits of human interaction going on out of awareness, stuff that can never really be mapped explicitly, and doesn’t really need to be.

Here’s an example. A friend explained to me that he’s learning to manage the phase of parenthood where his daughter is now 18 and must be treated as an adult, yet in some ways is also still a child. He was on holiday and she rang him from her mobile. She was in a town he’d never been to, but she was lost and couldn’t find her destination. Now if we focus on the explicit, there would be no point speaking to her father, who has no map of the town and could only offer the advice to ask for directions, which would hardly be rocket science. Nevertheless, they engaged in a ping pong conversation where he offered suggestions like this, and she didn’t act on them. After four minutes, she suddenly announced “Oh, I’ve found it now” and rang off. Was this a pointless conversation? I say No. The point was she had a simple human need for a little companionship in uncertainty, she didn’t really need – or probably expect – an explicit answer even though on the surface that’s what she was looking for.

Similarly, my friend described the challenge of adjusting to this new uncertain phase of parenting. Did he want, or need, any of the no doubt thousand of books written by experts on how to manage this important transition. No! Because – I think – we are actually humanly programmed to muddle through these things, and it’s more fun to work it out for ourselves than be told how to.

Maybe this is the point of all this…

What on earth has any of this got to do with branding? Well, I think if we look at what really gets people working together, it may be none of logical things that most consultants draw those wretched spidery diagrams about. It may, indeed, be the opposite of that. I think that most of this brand strategy just gets in the way of answering the more interesting challege we each face daily: how shall we go on together?

Indeed, it occurs to me I may have reached the nub of what I dislike about Lovemarks. Which is that this simple desire for, and ability to create, companionship in uncertainty; this basic human instinct for collaboration – this is Love. It is the very opposite of the shallow, adrenalised attachment to material things and abstract ideas that Kevin Roberts’ tiresome book eulogises.

And if you don’t understand, don’t worry. Neither do I really. It’s not a problem.

5 thoughts on “Beyond Lovemarks: Fouroboros engages

  1. fouroboros

    Ya Boo Sucks Lovemarks.

    I am so fed up with Lovemarks.

    Lovemarks is a non-idea in search of a big idea.

    “Hi, here’s a new cutey-pie reason to prove why we’re not morally and intellectually bankrupt!”

    Whatever. There’s a new game in town. None of the big agencies have a clue. Post-Cluetrain etc.


    “A few more complicated diagrams”

    Hah! That was the part my partners had the most dificulty saying “yes” to–a lot if IP there for free.

    I’m so tired of dancing around the obvious–those diagrams elicit what makes up the landscape that many of us operate in today.

  2. Sergiy Grynko

    You know, I really have to defend the person who refused to buy into the creative thinking course unless the deliverables were made clear. Without measurable and verifiable results, how does (s)he know whether the person delivering the course isn’t just squirting textbook mumbo-jumbo (as opposed to actually trying to enhance the creative skills of the students)? Explicit things have a lot in common with cheap things: they have little to show for themselves, but at least they’re being honest. When you’re buying the cheapest product, you know you’re getting the cheapest materials, the lowest-fidelity design, and the poorest labour standards. With something more expensive, you don’t know whether the extra price is paying for better materials, non-sweatshop labour, or just somebody’s profit margin (with leaves you with the same cheap junk, and less money in your wallet).

    In order to be able to know that you’re not throwing your money away, you need to feel some degree of trust toward the source of the service or product. That’s the brand. Unfortunately, the vast majority of branding efforts work to fabricate, rather than to earn, trust. And that creates an environment where it’s hard to trust anybody or anything. Given that, the explicit can sometimes be the only refuge against the onslaught of snake oil. So I think that — for every situation, individually — it’s helpful to consider the tyranny of the explicit in the context of its alternatives.

    I agree with the rest of your post, though.

  3. Johnnie Moore

    Hi Sergiy and thanks for the pushback on explicit. I agree with you, the context is important and I was generalising. Yes, I think that a focus on the explicit is something we do in situations of low trust and that’s quite understandable esp working with someone unknown. And of course, there are some explicit things we will always need/look for. It’s the denial of the implicit altogether that bothers me.

    Actually, in the real example I gave, the person used the word “deliverables” but then couldn’t say what she specifically meant by it. She also refused the offer of a free demonstration to allow her to experience the deliverable for herself. In that case, I think she may be trapped in low-trust relationships by her unwillingness to take any kind of risk.

  4. 800CEOREAD Blog

    Speaking of Johnnie Moore

    He continues to produce posts in his Beyond Lovemarks series. Beyond Lovemarks: SpontaneityBeyond Lovemarks: Things/Ideas or People/Relationships?Beyond Lovemarks: Restoring the power of languageBeyond Lovemarks: Fouroboros engages…

  5. Big Blog Company

    Beyond Lovemarks

    Johnnie Moore engages on the topic of Lovemarks and in the process gets some really interesting conversations going with Mark at fouroboros. I particularly like the case of the ‘tyranny of the explicit’. A friend was trying to sell a…


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