The Trap of the False Promise

over promise and over deliverAn organization’s value proposition is its promise. How many really deliver or exceed on their promise?

Look around you, take the time to evaluate who you do business with and you’ll see false promises everywhere; and a lot of value is not being delivered.

Like you, I’ve seen and lived this firsthand. I had my office in a very fancy building that pitched itself as green and smart. The green part is somewhat true, but there’s nothing smart about the building. That was almost 5 years ago, and they’ve still not tried to make the building smart.

Ironically, this building was the catalyst for a wave of new real estate developments in the city – homes, office buidlings and apartments – over the last three years. Similar to my old building, all of them pitch a “unique concept” (for example see here and here). Of course, they have to say they’re unique, but you don’t have to look too deep to see that there’s nothing “unique” about these properties.

They’re not being built in a shorter amount of time with 3D printing technology or a modular process, nor are they lower cost with premium features, nor are they true “smart homes” that have AI built in to make the home and your life more efficient.

Fundamentally, they’re all the same; what they pitch is window dressing. Different color tones and a change here and there. Of course, people might only care about where the property is located, how it looks and how much it costs.

That is until a visionary creates and delivers a unique promise that resets people’s expectations of what could be; and rendering you obsolete along the way.

As a business leader, you are also well equipped to raise expectations and do better; you just have to decide to do so. The question for your organization then is, why keep doing things the same way?

Why are false promises a trap?

Many companies in their efforts to not be seen as a commodity try to differentiate themselves with false promises. They’re betting on the stupidity and ignorance of the customer, and their unwillingness to ask for more. Many businesses manage to survive for a long time like this knowing or not caring that this is bad business over the long run.

What they’re really doing is presenting themselves as something they’re not to avoid being seen as a commodity.

For organizations trying to avoid being seen as a commodity, false promises are a trap because they become complacent and will never be able to transform themselves the moment they habituate themselves to selling something that is partly or isn’t true. Put simply, when people’s needs and expectations change these organizations will not be their first option.

And this is really the challenge for organizations that have been playing the same game for a long time: you’ve failed yourself and your customers the moment you begin making false promises.

And if you believe this is the way it’s always going to be because nobody asks for more; you’re wrong. As I wrote last week, either you drive disruption or you will be outpaced by it.

On the other hand, organizations that overpromise and overdeliver have the customer’s best interest in mind, they have a vision for the customer that goes beyond simply selling them something to giving them a superpower.

All organizations have the same choice, but true innovators always decide to deliver on their promise.

Bottom line: We all pay at a personal and societal level for the failure to hold ourselves accountable to higher standards. So don’t be that person or business that keeps making false promises just to make a quick buck off people’s stupidity.