The product manager presenting his case for approval of phase gate passage on a new product development project was pitching the merits of the prospective new offering for all he was worth. If they believed the slam dunk advantages it would offer versus their pathetic alternatives, our competition would have no choice but to fold up tent and surrender.
Smiling, I saw an opportunity to make a point, and I did, along these lines…
There's a time for looking at the glass as half full or better, but also a time to see it as half empty, or worse.
When presenting to prospective customers and partners, it's clearly important to focus on your advantages, illuminated in their best possible light. Your claims must be true, supportable and credible, but highlighting them over your possible shortcomings is common sense and fully appropriate in that context. It's "Half Full" time.
However, when engaged in an internal planning or decision-making process such as the one we were in the middle of that day some years ago, I believe that it's important to force yourself to consider the half of the glass that isn't full:
- How might your competition offer and position advantages that you don't see or fully appreciate?
- Could they be about to launch a new offering that trumps the one you're planning to develop?
- Do your customers see the relative advantages of your respective products the same way you do? Do they care about the features you're spending money and time to develop?
- Might there be greater technical risk in your planned development than you're acknowledging?
Only by soberly confronting these questions, and answering them honestly, will it be possible to make a decision intelligently of the sort we were confronting that day. Only through a process of healthy skepticism can you emerge with both a solid decision and a basis for confidence in how you'll move forward and win — a confidence much more secure than if you falsely see a full glass. Because, more likey than not, it's your own cool aid you'll be drinking when you pick it up, to the laughter of your competition.
A bit later in that same meeting, I offered up a somewhat related point, involving telescopes, not glasses. But I'll reserve that story for another day.