March 2, 2021

Your Worst Enemy at Work Is…

You have an enemy.

You may think you don’t, but you do.

Not only is this enemy vicious and unrelenting, you are accompanied by the enemy every single day of your life. The enemy shows up in brainstorming sessions. When you’re writing copy. When you’re live on the air or when you’re recording a show.

Who is this enemy? It’s not a “who.” It’s a “what.”

Your enemy is the preconceived notion.

Preconceive: to form a conception or opinion of beforehand, as before seeing evidence or as a result of previously held prejudice. – Dictionary.com

Preconceived notions

Preconceived notions slither through the halls of radio stations, convincing you that you’ve got a total handle on how listeners think about your brand. They tell you how well-known the morning show host is and how everyone plays your contests. They shape your feelings about the competition and their listeners.

Preconceived notions are equal opportunity offenders, invading the podcasting and streaming industry the same way they permeated radio. In fact, no industry or brand is safe from the preconceived notion.

The worst part? There is great comfort in the preconceived notion. A strong preconceived notion can feel like a warm blanket draped around your shoulders. But rather than empowering your brain, preconceived notions offer a false sense of security. They offer a sense that you know more than you do–and the alternative to that is unpleasant.

(whispering) You don’t have all the answers.

Trevor Noah preconceived notion

That is an understandably intimidating realization for many. Those hired as strategists are expected to understand how to strategize, and removing preconceived notions can feel like an admission of defeat.

The reality is that market conditions and audience behavior is shifting in ways we’ve never seen in our lifetimes. The smartest strategists and most cunning tacticians are using research to understand these changes. So, what do they do with preconceived notions? They often include these preconceived notions in research to either validate them or smash them into pieces. In this way, the preconceived notion is no longer the enemy–it’s a superhero ally in an ongoing battle for positive image perception.

Recognize that preconceived notions are impossible to eliminate, but they can be managed. Challenging them doesn’t make you less of a strategist, it makes you a better one.

Sun Tzu strategy

Legendary Chinese military strategist and “The Art of War” author Sun Tzu

“Know thy enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle.” – Sun Tzu

Author

4 thoughts on “Your Worst Enemy at Work Is…”

  1. Dave Mason

    Nice thoughts, Jay -but one of the dangers in consulting with outside strategists – you still have to deal with THEIR preconceived notions. You’re right. We all have them. Usually the person with the highest power (manager, owner) has the most important one.

    1. Jay Nachlis Post Author

      No doubt, Dave. Validating those preconceived notions can be so valuable; data is often the great equalizer. Sometimes humans are proven right, sometimes wrong, and sometimes we learn things altogether unexpected.

  2. Joe Montione

    Data can be skewed or misinterpreted (sometimes deliberately). I do my own continuous reconnaissance of the enemy – then If budget permits, an outside source you believe to be unbiased is a nice tool to see if your results are validated or point out that you missed something.

    1. Jay Nachlis Post Author

      Thanks, Joe. You are absolutely correct that data alone is not enough and the interpretation is critical. I also 100% agree that the best tacticians hardly rely on data alone. Recon is one of the best parts of being a programmer!

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