Today I am up at Thinking Digital, in Gateshead. The evidence that the digirati are here in force is that the conference tag – #TDC10 – was trending topic on Twitter. Jonathan Drori has just given a provocative talk on the on classic pitfalls of business relationships, and how to make them, or : “23 ways to mess up the relationship with your commissioner”.

For “commissioner” in his talk, you could substitute “customer”, “boss”, “investory” or many other business parties! The ‘not’ view is a great what of pointing out what you SHOULD do, starting with NOT doing these things:

  • As a small organisation:
  • 23. Go all the way on the first date – ask for money on the first meeting.
  • 22. Only call at the top levels of the organisation.
  • 21. Cloak your pitches in buzzwords, jargon and boss-speak.
  • 20. Don’t support the commissioner’s aims (the buyer). And don’t supply evidence.
  • 19. Don’t ask for anything specific…
  • 18. Be sure to include minute detail.
  • 17. Confuse useful challenge with being lippy – ideally via the press.
  • 16. Never give contacts tools to persuade others.
  • As a large organisation:
  • 15. Design pilots to test the easy things.
  • 14. Develop a handy one-size-fits-all procurement process.
  • 13. Stubbornly misinterpret European procurement law.
  • 12. A tender should come as a nice surprise.
  • 11. Frequently introduce surprising new rules – and make them tricky to understand.
  • 10. Keep ’em keen – make people jump through as many hoops to make it hard to do business with you. Make sure that preconditions are hard to find, that dresscode is changed on presentation day.
  • 9. Call distant meetings at short notice.
  • 8. Government lawyers always know best.
  • And both ways:
  • 7. Specify first, then get technologists in.
  • 6. Choose bad measures.
  • 5a. Confuse project-management with editorial vision.
  • 5b. Never do a storyboard together.
  • 4. Confuse a neat idea with strategy.
  • In communication:
  • 3.Reinforce prejudices – it’s reassuring.
  • 2. Misjudge the knowledge of your audience.
  • 1.Avoid understanding who your audience is and how they work.

And, of course, I’d add another, never use a tool like Milestone Planner to co-ordinate and track your commitments ;).

The ‘negative’ frame is a great way to surface the mistakes that we so easily make. Clearly, having a well communicated, common plan is essential to success, but beyond that, is it also important to avoid building in too much process and too little communication. It’s striking how many of Jonathan’s points come down to communication.