About eight or nine years ago, there were two companies championing a new technology against a very well-established technology. The presidents of the two companies spent much time and money (in advertising) battling over which of the two of their technologies was more stable and therefore primed to take on the reigning champion. In this month of “March Madness” in the US (sorry, for international readers, that’s our university basketball tournament to determine a national champion), it’s like they were in the play-in game to see who would face off with the top team in order to determine the winner.

I used to suggest to them that they were ignoring the real situation. The problem was that their entire category was suspect in the eyes of potential buyers. Instead of fighting each other, they needed to both promote their technology as better than the reigning technology. They needed to develop their market so that both could gain market share. Today, that reigning champion is still selling lots of its technologies and the other two companies are gone.

In the “if it weren’t so serious it would be funny” category, today’s U.S. Congressional leaders seem to be in that same mind set as those two CEOs I used to talk with. After several decades of polls showing how displeased the general American public is with Congress, the total inability of it to grapple with the health care issue in an open, transparent, logical way has finally created a critical mass of negative opinion so great that it has even sliced through the self-induced fog of Washington. So what are Congressional leaders doing? Instead of correcting the problem and working together to establish the Congress as an ethical place where the country’s work gets done, each party is accusing the other of being more corrupt (oops, I mean, of being the corrupt ones). They don’t get it that it’s not the party–it’s the people. And the way they both do business. Hence we get sporadic movements in American politics of disaffected people who have that gut feel that things just aren’t “together” inside the “Beltway.”

I’m too logical and (I hope) too ethical to be in politics. But I touch on an adjacent area–marketing. And I’m writing to people within technology and manufacturing companies. So, I ask, are you fighting the real enemy? Or are you wasting time on the wrong argument? Are you so busy arguing about minute pieces of technology that you miss the big picture?

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