Polonius’s Paradox

by Chikashi

One of the most difficult aspects of product development or marketing in general is seeing and understanding the way that the world actually is rather than how we think it is based on our unique experience, preconceived notions and prejudices.  Much effort and time are expended on justifying a new product or marketing strategy in terms of the target audience, their alleged common characteristics and the supposed needs or wants that are being addressed.  This type of exercise is usually done in the pretense that it is based on the way the world actually is but in fact is based on how someone experiences it.  Such exercise in reification usually leads to, at best, more of the same or, at worst, dumbed down products.  To be clear, I am not saying that either outcome has a necessary connection to the commercial performance of the resulting product; many such products become commercially successful for a variety of reasons.

The Alternative Approach is to impose one’s creative vision or principles, such as quality, on the world with little or no regard to the way the world is or is perceived to be.  This should be the oath taken by anyone in the discretionary purchase trade, but it is seldom the case.  There is no doubt that this is an approach that entails high levels of commercial risk, especially considering the fact that much commercial success can be had by taking the first approach.  However, given that the Alternative Approach is so rarely seen, partly because not everyone is creative or stubbornly principled, those who take the approach can stand out very easily and facilitate their way to sustained commercial success.

The Alternative Approach is the Polonius’s Paradox:  ‘Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.

There is, however, a prerequisite to the Alternative Approach which Polonius also revealed:  ‘To thine own self be true.’