Be pragmatic, not dogmatic

be pragmatic, not dogmaticI’m currently reading Scott Brinker’s book Hacking Marketing: Agile Practices to Make Marketing Smarter, Faster, and More Innovative (awesome book – look for a much more complete review here soon) and came across a line in Chapter 7 that says “Be pragmatic, not dogmatic.”

This really spoke to me.

One of the things I dislike about many business books is that they try to create dogma and that readers should follow their ‘recipe’ and you’re business will be ‘great’.  Much like Isaac Sacolick’s Driving Digital (see my review of Isaac’s book here), Scott doesn’t do that with his book…instead he’s telling people to stop trying to find a recipe that other companies have used for success and start from scratch (with lessons learned from others of course).

One of the most damaging routes a company can take is trying to mimic another. I’ve been in meetings listening to product managers describe their product roadmap that contains 99% ‘me too’ features to keep up with their competitors.  When I ask about innovation, I get blank stares.  These folks are stuck in the dogma of their industry and their organization. They are focused on imitation rather than innovation.

That’s where being pragmatic comes into play. Sure…there may be features that you must have to compete in your vertical/industry but if you’re entire roadmap is focused on imitation, its time to take a step back and rethink your approach, your investment and your business. Rather than mimic everything others are doing (e.g., being dogmatic), take a the pragmatic approach.  Take a look at what your competitors are doing, what your clients want, what you can deliver and what best fits into your organization’s long-term goals and then do that.

Another aspect of pragmatic vs dogmatic that I see often is that of project management. How many times have you heard (or said!) “well…we need to build a gantt chart before the project can start” or “that’s not how the PMBOK” says to do it or ‘Scrum requires us to do X, Y and Z in that order.”   That’s dogmatic.  Not every project requires a gantt chart or a daily 15min standup meeting. Not every organization can (or should) follow the dogma of project management methods.  The most successful project managers out there are those that know when to follow guidelines and when to deviate from said guidelines.

So…be pragmatic, not dogmatic.  Thanks for the quote Scott.