The Problem With Theories

Beware of theories

I wrote a listicle on Medium, where I have written about things that don’t always pertain to this list. But as I did so, I realized it was relevant.

The list is of 11 traits that communists, capitalists, and fascists share:

  1. They love management science
  2. They like to do “re-orgs”
  3. They need hierarchy
  4. A few near the top make decisions for everyone
  5. They’re obsessed with metrics
  6. They love centralization
  7. They hate threats to the status quo
  8. They view democratic institutions as an obstacle
  9. They all influence the world’s most powerful countries – Russia, the US, China
  10. They all (not just capitalism) influence businesses
  11. They are theorists whose theories don’t actually fit the real world

How in the world does this relate to an independent entrepreneur or consultant?

Two ways.

1. Theories aren’t how you create value for customers

Reflecting on how much fascists, capitalists, and communists have in common hopefully helps you question the value of strategic, theoretical frameworks. Strategy consultants loved to set up this dichotomy between strategy and implementation. In that paradigm, theory is hoisted high.

But what about raw creative ability?

Marketing is so full of BS theories. Some of them are harmful. A little bit ago, for example, I wrote about the theory of omnichannel marketing as a time-waster. Another example – this concept that what you need is the right funnel formula. The right approach or mix of tools and strategies. There is no perfect formula. That’s the overvaluation of theory creeping in.

If it creeps in too much, it doesn’t leave space for creative skill.

Anyone who solves a business problem has this, not just “creatives”. But in marketing, it is creatives – designers and writers. Their skill shapes product and how you present it, message it, talk about it. That matters a lot more than “the strategic marketing plan”.

Creative skill eats theory/strategy for breakfast.

And by the way, it’s not the same thing as implementation, execution, “hands work”, or whatever you want to call the work of carrying out strategies that isn’t mentally – or creatively – demanding.

2. Opposite World

If you switch many of the items in the original list around, you have traits that pretty well describe the independent expert or entrepreneur:

  • They have no need for management science
  • They don’t like to do “re-orgs”
  • They don’t need hierarchy
  • They’re indifferent to metrics
  • They don’t care for centralization
  • They love threats to the status quo
  • They view democratic institutions as allies
  • Their theories must fit the real world – bills to pay

My best,