Simple, Neat, and Wrong

In which we are reminded to look at the big picture of our clients’ challenges, beyond the first symptom.

 “Deer are not the problem,” I was surprised to learn, one night, listening to the car radio [I know, who does that anymore?].

“When people think about Lyme Disease, they think of two things: ticks and deer. Although ticks and deer are important in the spread of Lyme Disease, they aren’t the ONLY two pieces. You could reduce the deer population to almost nothing and you’d still have the problem.”

Which is, I guess, good news for the remaining deer.  “Hey, it’s not us! Stop shooting!”

Turns out… Deer don’t carry the Lyme Disease bacteria. Ticks carry the bacteria; they become infected because they ingest blood from infected white-footed mice, other small mammals, and birds. The mice and other small mammals and birds are the reservoirs for the disease.

The deer carry the ticks – sort of like Uber for insects.  The infected ticks feed on the deer and reproduce on the deer…. and the deer do not become infected.

According to entomologists, we could wipe out the deer AND the mice…. and the ticks would simply find other mammals on which to feed and we’d see more ticks per deer.

So, there’s a complex system in play. It’s not just ONE thing.  Thus, the solution is not simple, and it takes years to reduce rates of infection. But we like simple, fast solutions, i.e. “shoot the deer.”

When we’re selling, we see both simple client problems and complex client problems. The challenge is, sellers and buyers also like simple solutions.  So, it’s good to remember (with thanks to writer H.L. Mencken), “For every complex problem, there is solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.”

When we pounce – “I can solve THAT!” – on the first opportunities we hear in client conversations, we’re shooting deer. As sellers, we need to understand how “mice’ and other influences create or affect the problems our clients seek to solve and, then, address the full system.


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