Not Everything Is a Communications Problem


You probably know the saying: “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” But did you know it was called Law of the Instrument? (Neither did I until I searched it.)

Unfortunately, the same is true in business: To a communicator, everything looks like a communications problem. And that leads to a lot of wasted money, and far too many bent nails.  

I’m reminded of that traveling in the UK this week. The hotel I’m staying at requires me to insert my room key into a slot near the door to turn on the lights and several electrical outlets.  

Result: Less energy is wasted on empty rooms. And there’s not a single THINK GREEN message near the lightswitch or guilt-inducing “help us conserve energy” tent card on my desk. 

Think: What behavioral change am I trying to achieve? Not: What kind of communications campaign should I mount? 

Before you reach for your communications hammer, make sure there’s not a far more efficient solution in your toolkit. 

Want to significantly increase the number of organ donors? Launch a “save a life” awareness campaign, right? No, not right. Read the real solution via Dan Ariely here, or watch Dan’s entertaining TED video instead (start at the 5:00 mark, if you’re short on time).