when you look into the abyss…

I’ve noticed how problem solvers often become strangely “infected” with and by the problems they are attempting to solve.

In communications projects, this translates into a tendency to unconsciously fixate on the problem and be seduced into talking about its causes, outcomes and complexities at the expense of talking about the solution. Marketing is usually about promoting a positive choice. When you look into the abyss, fixating on negativity represents a significant hazard.

One strategy we use for avoiding this outcome is to “ghettoize” the problem, isolating the negativity to one small section and focusing on the positive (i.e. solutions, benefits, ideas, etc.) in the remaining areas. This framework helps create more focused conversations and better work.

I presented this idea to a group of healthcare providers last week. This group was considering pushing for legislative changes for helping children benefit from a more integrated, progressive health care model. It was great to see how they made the collective agreement to focus on positive outcomes in their messaging. Choices like this translate into moreĀ  focused work as well as shorter, less numerous meetings, and set the stage for a successful partnership to follow.

Eric Shew is a graphic designer and front end developer living in Bellingham, Washington.

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