Service of Outside the Box

June 8th, 2010

Categories: Lies, Manipulation, Outside Counsel, Outside the Box, Specialists

“Brilliant” I thought the first time I heard the news that moviemaker James Cameron was invited to strategize with scientists at Environmental Protection Agency headquarters about how to stop the BP underwater oil leak, even though all I noticed that morning was collective media knee-slapping and guffaws.

Haven’t any of these people brainstormed with colleagues, clients, or board, committee or PTA members to address a challenge? What about editorial or production meetings? It’s a beautiful thing to watch when one person suggests a far-flung idea that another one picks up, adjusts and turns into something great and perfect. That’s the potential I saw for Mr. Cameron whose point of view as an underwater filmmaker might give him an invaluable and slightly different perspective and experience than the scientists around the table causing a blessed “aha!” moment to occur. Isn’t this a way that thinking outside the box happens?

Didn’t many joining in the hooting and hollering vote for a movie star as President?

Simultaneously in the news was an impression of a different kind that a major cereal manufacturer tried to foist on parents by claiming that their breakfast product would help their child’s immunity. Along with that assertion they printed the health buzzword “antioxidants” in large letters on the box. The Federal Trade Commission stopped them from making the claim just as it had done previously when the same company touted another brand as improving children’s attentiveness. The Federal Drug Administration slapped another manufacturer’s knuckles last year for asserting that their cereal offered unsubstantiated heart benefits.

When will companies and their agencies get over exaggerating product features to pull in customers? Isn’t it enough that they make a tasty, healthy food in spotless facilities and sell it in an attractive and clean box? “All” they need to tout health benefits is to prove them as pharmaceutical companies must. Otherwise, they don’t have the right to do so, they know it and yet so many keep trying–a little like children testing their parents.

Every industry has these people, both the ones who want to help and the ones out to dupe for profit. The trick is to learn to distinguish one from the other. It’s hard when you are tempted by a pitch that entices you to make a bundle when you need money or a cream that is supposed to eliminate wrinkles or a fix for a devastating oil leak a mile down under or the desire to feed your family the healthiest food.

Can you share an example of a person who came up with the solution to a crisis or challenge by suggesting a twist down an atypical path? Have you, like me, fallen for exaggerated claims?

3 Responses to “Service of Outside the Box”

  1. Simon Carr Said:

    What comes first to mind is the way the British, during World War II, so effectively employed fuzzy brained, odd ball professors, and a writer or two, like Ian Flemming of James Bond fame, to break codes and create all sorts of intelligence havoc to confuse the Germans. (Incidentally, my mother who worked for the American OSS throughout the war always maintained that the Bond stories were far closer to reality than they are generally credited for being!) Had the Brits not had Churchill and their wacky spies, they, and we, might well have lost the war.

    I doubt that in modern Washington, anyone in power would trust such wierdos, let alone believe in them, were we again to be at war for our very suvival. Too bad. You make a very good point Jeanne.

  2. Lucrezia Said:

    Two “out of the box” people come to mind, an Episcopal priest and a rabbi. Both have a priceless manner when dealing with difficult people, and defusing potentially harmful situations. A third, another rabbi, gifted with a more abrasive personality, is expert at making sense out of horrific events. It’s a shame they don’t set up shop and give tutoring lessons.

    Exaggerated claims are usually easy to detect. It pays to develop an antenna for horse feather and snake oil sightings. Saves time and money!

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Two creative responses, Simon and Lucrezia. Thank you! We can hope that as various wars escalate people in charge apply all the brainpower and unorthodox thinking available to negotiate or stop them.

    I used to relax when I bought products from major brands until years ago. I counted on agencies, such as the FTC and FDA, to keep them under control, until I read how food such as tomato soup–canned tomato soup used to be a favorite–was allowed to have so many maggots per so many gallons and still pass inspection. I realize that nobody is perfect, but oh my. Mind you, I still buy food, like cereal, from big brands and I try not to think about it.

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