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We can all agree that consensus is dumb

Geez, how can anyone be against consensus? Well, I am. And I think that if you listen to what I have to say, I can get all of you to reach consensus that it’s a bad idea, too. I like being a team player, but not on a losing team. Praying to the god of consensus decision-making is one way to lose. And the larger the organization that tries to reach consensus, the more destined they are to lose in the game of Internet marketing.

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So why am I so down on consensus? Because it is the slowest possible way to reach a conclusion, and the Internet is built for speed. Decisions delayed mean opportunities that you never get back. Those customers moved on, while you were dilly-dallying. (I’m not sure what dilly-dallying is, exactly, but trust me, it’s bad.)
Think of your Web site the way airlines think about their plane flights. They change the price of a ticket countless times to extract the highest profit from each seat, and they make those decisions quickly (with a computer), because any seat unfilled is profit lost the moment that flight takes off.
Internet marketing is no different. At every moment, customers are deciding what to buy and whom to buy from. If you aren’t bidding on a paid search keyword, or you’ve got the wrong copy on your landing page, or you don’t clearly explain how the customer moves offline to buy from you, you lose. And every minute you fail to change that stuff, because you are still working through persuading the last few folks of that decision–those are customers that you’ll never get back. Those flights have taken off.
When I wrote the book Do It Wrong Quickly, I chose the title quite carefully. I mean, the quickly part is kind of important—if you leave it out, then you’re just doing it wrong. And consensus decision-making virtually ensures that you’ll leave out the “quickly” part.
The very nature of consensus building is a slow process. People come to issues with so many different perspectives and experiences that they virtually never agree on the same course of action at first. So, getting them all to agree, by its nature, means that you are making decisions very slowly. And the more people that need to agree, the slower it goes.
But it’s actually worse than that, because it’s highly likely that you’ll never reach consensus. (And the more people involved, the more likely it’s so.) How many decisions have you seen postponed endlessly because a few (perhaps even one) powers-that-be don’t agree. Or aren’t “ready” yet? Or have a “few more questions”?
So as bad as it is to leave out the quickly part of “do it wrong quickly,” consensus often leaves out the “do it” part, too, as decisions never get made. And then, what you’re left with from “do it wrong quickly” is just “wrong.”
If you’re still bowing to the god of consensus decision-making, that’s just wrong.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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