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  • Patrick Schilling

YOU CAN'T FIX STUPID


The previous articles (Is The Sport Dilemma Just Starting? and The Second Coming of Sport(?)), explored the reality of hitting peak broadcast rights, disappearing pricing tension and how the fate of sport now lay not in selling broadcasting rights but in OTT.


Since those articles, these themes have accelerated exposing sport's over-reliance on key stakeholders who themselves are now facing existential threats. More specifically:

  • Seven's fire sale rolls on with the sale of Seven Studios UK and Seven Ventures next

  • TEN wrote off $47m in onerous contracts relating to sporting and program rights

  • Fox Sports cut ties with Chief Football commentator Simon Hill

  • Struggling apparel maker ISC cut ties with the NRL potentially costing the code $8m

  • TV ad spend fell 35.6% in May

  • The Government announced a further $84m in funding cuts to the ABC

  • A spike in Covid-19 cases has seen renewed lockdowns and restrictions raising the likelihood that sporting competitions will be stopped again

YOU CAN'T FIX STUPID


The greatest opportunities are often thwarted by those that stand to gain the most.


A major bane of the founder's existence is the rejection of a seemingly no brainer solution by a needy organisation. It often reflects more about the shortcomings of the organisation than questions of product-market-fit.


Of all the reasons given for not proceeding, no words have destroyed greater shareholder value and killed more opportunities than,


Thanks but we can do that ourselves”.


If that's the response, perhaps the question should be, "Then why haven't you?", or alternatively, "You may be able to but does that mean you should?".


Believing that "We can do that ourselves", overlooks the role of specialist expertise and the skill of those that can versus those with resources that think they should be able to.


The argument is often built on a combination of inflating one's own abilities (Dunning-Kruger effect) with the assumption that access to resources = ability.


A quick reminder when it doesn't:

  • A grocer moving in to hardware. A $3.25bn lesson for Woolworths

  • A furniture and whitegoods retailer who called ecommerce "a con" and then trying to move in to sell video games to gamers online. Gerry Harvey.

  • Fairfax passing on buying in to realestate.com.au in 2000, Seek in 2003 and selling out of Carsales after just 8 months in 2005 because it owned classifieds

  • A broadcaster thinking it could do ecommerce. Seven

  • Microsoft thinking it could replicate the Apple store

  • Billabong thinking it could move from wholesale in to retail

  • Foxtel and Seven thinking they could do streaming

  • Isentia thinking it could do content

  • Virgin Australia thinking it could do Business class

Pride has been the driver of countless poor decisions.


Investors rarely get to see beyond the highly curated scripts of corporate CEOs and executives. They certainly don't get to see down to the level of the gatekeepers that decide whether or not to pass on opportunities and technologies. It is the Heads of Content, Product, Data, Media, Communications, Digital, Marketing, etc, that decide whether or not to pass on opportunities and technologies.


It is their decisions that will dictate whether an organisation creates value or stagnates and loses relevance. There is arguably no better lead indicator as to how an organisation will fare than understanding how they deal with opportunity.

Working with ventures around commercialisation provides extraordinary access to see which organisations have put the wrong person in the right job.


THE WARNING SIGNS OF THE WRONG PERSON IN THE RIGHT JOB

Dismissive to new ideas and change

Talk versus listening

Unable to connect the dots between the solution and the opportunity to create value

Don't ask questions

Scripted replies

Short tenures. History of multiple short stints with various employers. Never in one place long enough to create value or do real damage.


THE CAUSE

Self-preservation is a powerful motivator on the path to career advancement. No-one wants to be shown-up by an outsider. Most feel the need to justify their well-resourced existence. All fear being exposed as a fraud.


When it comes to new ideas, it's easier to say 'no'. It's rare to see someone lose their job for not taking a risk. It also takes less work.


THE GOOD ONES

Great gatekeepers are always looking for ways to create value by being smarter. They're open to exploring all ideas, listen more than they talk, uncanny at seeing opportunity and possess genuine intellectual curiosity. They understand that creating value involves balancing risk and accept the challenge.


TAKEAWAYS

  1. "A man's got to know his limitations"_ Dirty Harry, 1973. Just because you can doesn't always mean you should or that you can't learn from someone else how to do it better

  2. Volume ≠ Quality. You may be able to producing a lot of one thing doesn't mean it's any good. Look no further than mediocre digital content or banal podcasts

  3. Time ≠ Expertise. Mediocre ability seldom improves over time

  4. The very best talent (coders, developers, UX, UI, product, analysts, content creators, cybersecurity, etc), don't work for Wesfarmers, Optus, Qantas, the NRL, David Jones, Nine Entertainment...They work for the startups and ventures trying to flip the foodchain Where their input is valued and their output tangible

  5. The wrong people in the right jobs effectively euthanises organisations

  6. It's OK to fail. The path to success is littered with failures. Experimentation is vital if well considered but dangerous when fuelled by hubris

  7. You can't fix stupid. When you come across an opportunity blocker, save your time, resources and mental health and quickly move on to the next prospect.

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