Case study porn

A while back I tweeted “Stop reading case study porn and get on with it”

OK, maybe I am bit unfair with my dismissal of case studies but when I am asked if I know of companies who are doing really well with social tools I say “Less than you might expect, those who you know of were less successful than they claim, and why not become the one that really makes it work?”

Even all those years ago when we were getting started at the BBC there was a pressure to justify what we were doing with examples from other organisations. I resisted this pressure as best I could because I knew that just because something had worked for someone else was no guarantee that it would work for us. “Best practice” is a dodgy idea that is increasingly discredited. And if I thought that waving case studies at nay sayers was going to get me very far I might as well have given up. It is so easy to get stuck in analysis paralysis.

The degree of change that getting social to work in your organisation takes calls for huge amounts of commitment. It will take perseverance and dogged determination. Yes you need to “manage up” but don’t let that soak up time and energy.

I am tempted to have a form for potential clients to complete that says “Do you care? Do you really care? Do you really, really care?” Because if they can’t answer yes they might as well give up now.

5 thoughts on “Case study porn”

  1. "Case study porn" is in many ways a good descriptor. But it often ends up being as to a real project as porn is to sex. All the trial and tribulations, all the human stuff is taken out and an airbrush, unreal version of events is presented instead. When I read a case study, the often ask myself "is this too good to be true?"

    But to the point that you’re actually making: yes, there is no substitute for just **ing doing it.

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  2. Blogging on the very same topic today! goo.gl/ZQrALG

    The recent Economist special on startups had a great quote on why one would want to stat a business rather than taking an MBA:"I would rather pay 100k to be a case study than paying 100k to read one!"

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  3. Agreed, case studies can be a symptom of a greater weakness in leadership. They can be useful but primarily in a specific learning/training context, and not when used as indiscriminately as they currently are. I’ve been amazed at the level of real leadership insight and vision in some organizations. In one organization I interviewed all of the senior leaders to find out what their greatest needs were (‘what do you and your people struggle with the most?) and then summarized it and presented the cumulative findings back to the executive committee. They were almost all quite excited to get on with fixing some troublesome problems and internal issues, and taking advantage of opportunities except one senior leader who suggested to me that maybe I should include some ‘factoids’ into the presentation. Frankly, I find most ‘factoids’ are just not relevant for a particular organization and their needs and I consider them to largely be of ‘interest’ to a weak leader or manager, as opposed to addressing real organizational issues and opportunities.

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