I know it's not just me. The Olympics seem more ridiculous this year. Part of it is Sochi itself and Bob Costas's eye situation but the other part is the actual events (some have gone as far as calling them sports). I've had more debates in the last week about whether or not pushing a sled then ducking your head or sweeping a broom (albeit quickly) is sufficiently, physically awe-inspiring to be worthy of the Olympics. I haven't kept an actual tally but most people land on "no".
Then, a coworker made a point that I'd never considered. It's this: There is something pretty awesome about watching the sprinters during the summer games. Nearly everyone has had the opportunity to run. I have. I didn't even have to know my 100 meter time to know that when I saw Carmelita Jeter go in Shanghai, she could beat me (and everyone else I know). And I was delighted. A sport like running offers context, as well as, some surety that everyone had a chance to try and we're seeing the best of all.
Contrast this with the luge. There are 17 luge tracks in the world. Living close by or knowing someone offers a distinct advantage over everyone else. Of course, the lugers in Sochi today are the best lugers in the world BUT they're best of a small subset of people who've tried. No one can say with certainty that 7 seconds is fastest a human can cover 4,478 feet of race track. In this case, exclusivity causes us to devalue the result.
The same dynamic impacts our clients and the answers they seek. Program managers are skeptical when they've only heard a handful of solutions from a handful of perspectives. They can't shake the feeling that there might just be something else out there-- so they hold back a little and have a harder time committing (and convincing others to buy-in).
Giving our clients a sense of context and surety that they're seeing the best of the best is a must. How? First, we owe it to our clients to know the landscape-- not just fake it after a weekend of brushing up via google searches but really know the solution set and all its mutations. We have to be willing to invite in a spectrum of people and perspectives-- both live and through data collected in surveys and through crowdsourcing. And we have to be specific and articulate enough in the problem we're trying to solve to ensure that everyone is focused on the same thing. (I'm always amazed at the spectrum of opinions what exactly the problem is we're trying to solve-- take a quick poll before your next meeting.)
When we can say with confidence that we're offering the best of all, so many downstream problems get easier-- communications, change management, training, etc.