March 11, 2019
In order to solve a problem, you need to sell it first. To get it on the radar, and to have people devote time, resources and behavior change to address it.
Human beings in our culture are wired to pay attention to problems that are:
- Visible: right in front of our eyes, not microscopic or far away.
- Non-chronic: rationalization is our specialty, and the reason we learn to rationalize is so that we don’t go insane when faced with long-term, persistent issues. We bargain them down the priority list.
- Symptomatic: this is a version of ‘visible.’ If the problem has symptoms, and the symptoms are painful and getting worse, you have our attention. Symptoms that are stable or getting better feel much less urgent.
- Painful: some problems have symptoms that aren’t so bad. And so, we ignore them.
- In our control: because helplessness is a feeling most people seek to avoid. The more certain the potential solution, the more likely it is people will acknowledge that there’s a problem.
- Keep us from feeling stupid: because we don’t like feeling stupid, so we’d rather ignore the problem.
- Status-driven: this one might be surprising. It turns out we like to focus our attention on things that will move us up the social hierarchy.
- Expensive: problems that cost us money right now are ideal for this culture, because expensive = urgent.
- Solvable: see that earlier riff about rationalization and chronic problems. If a problem doesn’t seem solvable, we’re a lot less likely to stake our attention on it.
If you’re working to sell a problem to your public, it’s tempting indeed to point out how shockingly irrational all the instincts above are in practice. More effective, though, is to remarket your problem with a story that resonates.
Please feel free to call anyone on our team to discuss your challenges at 610-828-1900 (PA) or 732-341-3893 (NJ) with questions. You can also contact me at
. As always, we are focused on your and desiccated to your success.
Martin C. McCarthy, CPA, CCIFP
McCarthy & Company, PC
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