Send In The Clowns: Clowns Ignore Science

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A couple of weeks ago, I took my daughters to the circus. The first few acts were about lions and gymnasts. Out of the blue, came out of the clown. The clown’s duty is to make people laugh with his jokes, funny clothes, red nose and big shoes. Every time the clown comes out, its jokes and laughter all the way.

However getting called a clown is rarely a compliment. Unless you want to join the circus, it’s not much of a career goal, either. In addition to the obvious, bad makeup and ill-fitting shoes, all clowns have a surprising amount in common. This is because of a simple truth: Clowns are based on us. They embody what’s wrong with human nature, just magnified a bit.

Are you a clown? Do you work with clowns? I break down clownhood into common traits.

Clowns ignore science.Whether it’s the magic of fitting 16 full-sized clowns into a VW Beetle or the constant arguments between clowns and gravity, the fruitless conflict between what’s real and what a clown desires is a fixture in a clown’s act.

Organisations (and politicians) tend to believe that science is optional. It’s not. If you run adverts and they don’t work, it doesn’t matter how you spin it; they didn’t work.

If your industry is changing because of a technological breakthrough, it doesn’t matter whether you “believe” in the breakthrough; it’s still true. We may have all sorts of business and theological reasons to challenge a piece of science, but denying the reality of a tested universe never leads to a positive outcome.

Kodak, for example, spent years denying, ignoring, or evading the reality of digital photography and its inevitable impact on the film business. And eventually it was forced to retrench one-fifth of its already-decimated workforce, you couldn’t help but holler, “You clowns! Did it just now dawn on you that digital cameras were going to catch on?”

Clowns refuse to measure their results, because measurement implies that they accept the reality of the outside world. Wishful thinking is not a replacement for the real world. Only clowns can get away with that.

Its important that entrepreneurs take the changes in their industry very seriously. When Steve Jobs warned music executives about the impact itunes will have on the music industry. Those who refused to embrace the winds of change were left behind and were clowns.

Uber is challenging the cab industry, who will be the clowns? The jury is still out on this one.

When the pace of change on the outside is faster than the pace of change in the inside, the end is near.

Don’t ignore your industry.

Ps: I do have much respect for clowns who take their craft very seriously. I’m aware that clowns spend hundreds of hours practicing and perfecting their craft for the amusement of others.

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