Leading Blog






11.28.06

Five Tests of Obviousness

Obvious Adams
We’ve received a lot of interest over the last few days in a little book written 90 years ago, due to a Forbes commentary by Jack Trout entitled In Search Of The Obvious. The book is the business classic, Obvious Adams written by Robert Updegraff. Jack Trout calls it his favorite marketing book, although its application is far wider. Why does Jack like it so much?
Well, because the search for any marketing strategy is the search for the obvious. Consider the dictionary definition of the word "obvious": easy to see or understand, plain, evident. With that definition you begin to see why an obvious strategy is so powerful. It's simple, easy to understand and evident. That's why it works so well.

Interestingly, when presented with a simple, obvious strategy, many clients are not impressed. They are often looking for some clever, not-so-obvious idea. What I often hear is something like, "That’s something we already know. Is the solution that simple?" I then have to go into my evident speech, which goes like this: "You’re right, it is evident. But if it's evident to you it will also be evident to your customers, which is why it will work."

The author warned of this reaction when he wrote, "The trouble is, the obvious is apt to be so simple and commonplace that it has no appeal to the imagination. We all like clever ideas and ingenious plans that make good lunch-table talk at the club. There is something about the obvious that is--well, so very obvious!"

In 1953 Updepgraff added a section where is laid out five tests of obviousness:

Test One: The problem when solved will be simple. The obvious is nearly always simple--so simple that sometimes a whole generation of men and women have looked at it without even seeing it.

Test Two: Does it check with human nature? If you feel comfortable in explaining your idea or plan to your mother, wife, relative, neighbors, your barber and anyone else you know, it's obvious. If you don't feel comfortable, it probably is not obvious.

Test Three: Put it on paper. Write out your idea, plan or project in words of one or two syllables, as though you were explaining it to a child. If you can't do this in two or three short paragraphs and the explanation becomes long, involved or ingenious--then very likely it is not obvious.

Test Four: Does it explode in people's minds? If, when you have presented your plan, project or program, do people say, "Now why didn't we think of that before?" You can feel encouraged. Obvious ideas are very apt to produce this "explosive" mental reaction.

Test Five: Is the time ripe? Many ideas and plans are obvious in themselves, but just as obviously "out of time." Checking time lines is often just as important as checking the idea or plan itself.

Jack adds, “To me, those five principles are worth a thousand books on marketing, mine included.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:06 PM
| Comments (0) | This post is about General Business



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