Barbecue Your Sacred Cows

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By Russ Ward (@russcward)

Whats changed in your career in the last decade?

Probably most of the following: your office, your coworkers, the experts, the conventions, the reference books, the terminology, the technology, the measurements of success, the pay grades.

In a word: everything.

So why are we still listening to the platitudes that we thought were smart ten years ago? Here are the two that I hate most.

The customer is always right. Nope. The customer will have a big mouth if theyre mad at you, thats for sure. But the customer is a fallible human being like you and I, and the customer is not always right. Thats why youve got to be out there, monitoring what your customers are saying – on Facebook, on Twitter, on YouTube – and hopping in when the conversation warrants. Yes, youre still there to make things right for unhappy customers, as always. But more than that, youre there to (politely) set the record straight for all of the other people who are watching the conversation.

Face time is what matters. Not necessarily. What matters is interacting in the best way for your client or customer. Figure out whether theyre email people, Skypers, IMers, meeting lovers, drop-in fans, dinner conversationalists – and follow it. Some people will love you if you show up in their office once a week, but itll get on another persons last nerve. You cant set the same plan for different people. You have to take the time to learn how they work, and adapt accordingly. While youre at it, figure out what you prefer, so you can tell your vendors and colleagues when they ask.

Pharma is too complex, too scientific, too highly regulated to compare with or learn from any other industry. Not anymore. This is not to say that its not still an intensely precise, vastly complicated, extremely regulated business; it is. But look around – look at global wireless networks or the banking industry for just two examples. Deep concern over customer privacy and safety isnt – shouldnt be – peculiar to our work. Maybe we have different goverment bodies to answer to and different types of restrictions. But its time we learned more and learned faster from other industries.

Think about what your sacred cows are. What do you do automatically every day, in every meeting, with every plan? On the other hand, what have you noticed that your newer team members do differently than you?

Question your assumptions. Question the authority that youve given to rules like these in your life. Question their validity and their worth. Then write some new ones.

But write them in pencil. You probably wont want them in ten years either.

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