if it sounds too good to be true — dig!

December 16, 2008 at 10:14 am | Posted in Business | Leave a comment

The enormity of the Madoff scandal and the simplicity of how a Ponzi scheme works just amazes me.  Of course, everyone is asking “How!?”  However, before the “how” question, lies a more fundamental one: “why?”

The reason we’ve all been taught the adage: “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” is because the democracy of history shows that greed and pride pave the way to countless schemes of deceit.  Something certainly can’t just be done for the sake of being “good” can it?  Actually, yes, I believe it can.  BUT — and that’s a big but — we are right to question it when we see it and dig a little deeper to find the motivation behind it.  There’s ALWAYS a motivating factor, whether altruistic or nefarious — it’s there.  Our job is to find out what it is before we allow ourselves to dive in.

Now lets flip that around.  What if YOU are the one doing the altruistic act?  Such was the case recently when my company launched a site called SQLServerPedia.  When we rolled the concept out to our contributors last year, they loved it — and then they were skeptical.  When we rolled it out to our customer advisory board, they loved it — and then they were skeptical.  You could see the reaction over and over “This is great…  hmmm…. too great, in fact.  Wait a minute… what’s the catch?  What’s in it for you?”  In each case, after detailed explanation of our motivations, you could see they “got it” and were comfortable and excited again.

Those were good lessons for us about the value of transparency, which led to this page on the site that proactively explains exactly why we built it, what’s in it for us (or said less cynically, what motivated us), and why believe it is a good and beneficial thing for everyone.  It was a great reminder that even when your motives are altruistic, the world around you rarely knows or believes that.  ESPECIALLY these days.  Take the time to show folks why you’re doing what you’re doing.  Of course, one could still be lying.  But I think the more open you are, the better chance you have at dialog, the more they get to know you, the better the opportunity to build a relationship.  More work?  Yes.  More benefit?  Off the charts.


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