We are having some fun with this week’s Elephant Post, so you’ll need to follow along with my thinking on this.

In the movie The Princess Bride, there is an exchange between Vizzini and Inigo Montoya. Vizzini keeps saying “INCONCEIVABLE!!” and
Montoya calls him on it:

Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

For this week’s Elephant Post we modified this somewhat:

“I think you need to look up the meaning of ________. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

Have some fun with this weeks post and provide your own spin in the comments section.

Internet Marketing Perspective:
Lisa Salazar
“I think you need to look up the meaning of Marketing. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

Everyone that has watched Mad Man thinks they understand marketing.
“Its just an ad!” “Just throw a party!” “You just need to network!”

Ummh. No.

People do get Ph.D.s in marketing, you know. They study statistics, economics, research, psychology, advanced mathematics. Really fun stuff.

In fact, most of my day is spent sifting through data, looking for gold. Some days I feel like the proverbial Rumpelstiltskin spinning wheat.

To be a really good marketer you need to have the smarts to find a lead, develop a lead, then turn that lead into business then go back and find more.

People get hung up on the first part–the party-throwing, the ad making, the web design.They forget that middle piece: taking the people they meet at that event, get from that ad or capture on the web and developing a relationship. And also examining the results of the party, ad or website and seeing if you can build it better to get better results.

If marketing is done with a whit of science it can create real measurable results.
Marketing. Its not what you think it is.

Competitive Intelligence Perspective:
Emily C. Rushing
“I think you need to look up the meaning of Intelligence. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

Intelligence is one of those buzzwords that gets slapped on any process or document and, as we say down in Texas, “WAH-LAH! Y’all got some intelligence!” (not really)

This is, sadly, a misuse (abuse?) of the word “intelligence”. I don’t mean human intelligence, artificial intelligence, or the intelligence of your pet Labrador. I mean intelligence as it relates to businesses and their strategies.

Let’s do some comparisons.

Intelligence is, among other things, the:

  • Development of key topics as defined by the business’ strategies
  • Collection and evaluation of information relating to these topics, and
  • Analysis and perspective on the information resulting in an actionable set of findings and influencing the businesses strategic decisions.

Real life examples of intelligence processes and deliverables include Business Intelligence, Market Intelligence and Competitive Intelligence. If you are missing any of the above pieces then what you have might not be “intelligence”.

Intelligence is not:

  • A collection of weblinks in an email
  • An article someone thought was “interesting”
  • Stuff in a database
  • Anything you put into Excel
  • Anything you print to PDF
  • A pie chart, bar graph or other infographic, however pretty

None of the above things are bad but please don’t think that because you have this that your company has a robust or sophisticated intelligence program. And please find something else to call it because “intelligence” has a specific meaning and it might not be what you think.

Alternative Fees Perspective:
Toby Brown
“I think you need to look up the meaning of Profitability. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

Revenue – cost = profit. Seems like a simple formula, yet it escapes the grasp of most law firm partners. The challenge arises since just a few years ago, revenue = profit. Existing in this odd in-between space where revenue no longer equals profit, but firms really haven’t grasped the concept of profitability on a client or matter level basis is challenging.

What this means is that law firms and lawyers still exhibit ‘revenue equals profit’ behavior. So most definitely “profitability” doesn’t mean what they think it means.

And if you don’t know what profitability means, how can you possibly remain profitable?

I’m just sayin …

Information Technology Perspective:
Scott Preston
“I think you need to look up the meaning of Intuitive. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

From time to time I hear “this software is not intuitive.” This always strikes me as funny since the people most likely to say this are also the people least likely to go to training. If you have little or no experience with a piece of software, how can you expect it to be intuitive.

The concept of intuition is based on past experience. If you have little or no past experience with a computer, how will it ever be intuitive? If you never take the time to use your word processor for anything more than a virtual typewriter, why do you care about intuitive software?

Knowledge Management Perspective:
Ayelette Robinson
“I think you need to look up the meaning of Usability. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

I may be pummeled by virtual tomatoes for saying this, but here goes: SharePoint is not usable. Here’s a tip for knowing whether a system is usable: if you need to click on every link you see within the four corners of your monitor before figuring out which button performs a function, you’re not dealing with a usable system. Here’s another tip: if you use a feature on a fairly regular basis (even once every few weeks), and each time you go to use it you forget where it is and need to re-click every link you see to find it, you’re not dealing with a usable system.

Usability does not mean that you can eventually use it, after painstakingly going through all possible options. It also doesn’t mean (hold your ears, Scott) that the only way to use it is by going to training. Google doesn’t need training. eBay doesn’t need training. Amazon doesn’t need training. Craigslist doesn’t need training. YouTube doesn’t need training. Need I go on? Plenty of systems out there, with plenty of sort-of-different, but also similar-enough, features, are able to be adopted by users without requiring training. Imagine if Eric Schmidt had sent out an all-user email to the world: “Exciting new tool available soon! It’ll change your world, but you won’t know how to use it unless you attend a training!” Think how ridiculous that would be. Why is it that within the enterprise we assume it’s the user’s responsibility to figure out how to use a system? That approach in the real world wouldn’t get you far, and certainly wouldn’t have put Mr. Schmidt on the map.

Usable means that when you’re using a system and think of a reasonable function you want to perform within the context of that system, you know – without training – what action to take to perform that function.

Next week’s Elephant Post:

What is something you can do immediately to be more productive?

In an effort to encourage our readers to step out from the anonymity of reading 3 Geeks and contribute to next week’s Elephant Post we decided to give you an easy question. We have received some really interested contributions over the last several weeks and we hope to see more over the next several.

If you have an idea for this weeks post or a suggestion for next week’s question, then send Greg an e-mail to discuss.

  • Ayelette, I agree with what you are saying. We must strive to design systems that are intuitive to use, but if you rarely use a web browser Google, Amazon, e-Bay are all going to take some exploration to use.

    One of the examples that came to mind for this post is Google. We were working on a design spec and we used Google’s simple search page as an example of what we were talking about. The person we were working with didn’t understand how to use the page and was outraged that there was no help on the screen. The very design concept we liked (a simple interface that required no explanation) was not intuitive to this person because she had never seen it before.

    All of these references apply to browser based applications. We will continue to push more computing to browser based solutions, but we work in an environment that requires a lot of functionality, functionality currently not available in a browser.

  • GREAT elephant post. I like your choice of all these terms to highlight and, thereby, clarify. Thanks.

  • You're absolutely right, Scott. And to go even further, it's impossible to design something that works for 100% of people; at best, you probably can hit the 80/20 mark. But I would still argue that incorporating a helpful, easily accessible, clearly visible Help within the system, so the user can access it just-in-time, is better than requiring a user to attend a training on somebody else's schedule.

  • Ayelette, I am cheering from my desk chair. You are spot on. Just say no to confusing and unattractive software.

  • I think you need to look up the meaning of cooperation. I don't think it means what you think it means. See my plea to Roget. http://www.collaborationista.org/

  • I love this post! Everyone of the words highlighted are misused daily. I especially like Usability. Usability focuses on user needs, not software. It's imperative in law firms as lawyers seldom attend training.


  • Genius posts and comments on 'intuitive' and 'usability' Scott & Ayelette (and thus fab Elephant Post in the 1st place!).

    The one that gets my goat is not that the word is misunderstood but that it is often completely ignored: useful.

    If it's not useful They Will Not Come. Add to that the need for visually compelling interfaces and you have my three favourite IA terms (well, ignoring the triumvirate of 'content, context & users' for now):
    useful, usable & desirable.