How to Pass Judgement Responsibly (Part 4)

This is becoming a broader arc. Start here and work your way through Parts 1 2 and 3. We will assemble them all into a longer form essay soon.

There’s an old Marty Zweig quote that says, “it’s okay to be wrong; it’s unforgivable to stay wrong.” As we’ve discussed understanding value chains by their component parts and purposes, we keep bumping into the concept of intent.

In Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why,” he goes into great detail about repeat interactions and loyalty. He explains how many companies focus on explaining what they do, without being able to articulate why they do it. Real loyalty is created from culture, and it flows from a common understanding of why.

To borrow the “stick versus carrot” metaphor, you can use a stick to drive sales, but it will be harder and harder to develop loyalty, since no one likes getting whacked. Will it work a few times? Sure, but who will keep coming back? Motivation alone isn’t good enough, says Sinek. We need inspiration.

Herein lies the key message of intent that must be present through each step of the value chain. Every supplier, every creator, every distributor, and every curator, must seek to understand the “why” motivations that carry the product downstream to the consumer.

Positive intent is the root understanding that the entire value chain is better off in some way after the final product or service is delivered. This may be starting to sound like some utopian theory, but let’s be clear: there is no pure altruism in markets, there is no free lunch, and there are no purely rational actors.

We keep saying it’s messy because it is. Motivations and incentives compete. Somehow, we need to be more altruistic than selfish, as well as openly accepting of creative destruction. It’s a frustratingly delicate balance, and you can’t exactly quantify it.

To bring it back to where we started, we can only make these assessments in real time. We are going to be wrong, but hopefully now we have a framework to reassess our situation. A commitment to progress means we know that “it’s unforgivable to stay wrong.” All models get old, so we need to be constantly trouble shooting in real time.

Our framework is so we can pass judgement responsibly. We want to be empowered to make an actual call about what we need to do, AND educate ourselves and others on the path forward.

If we know and understand our place in the value chain, the why of the other parties, and we have some understanding of where we want to be next, we’re going to be OK. Once in a while, we might even be great, and we’ll have done it intentionally.