On Playing Skynyrd (and Desperately Trying Not To)

I was in a meeting earlier this week and a customer was asking about a certain next generation use for what we were pitching. The customer was quite wise and correctly surmised that our solution could handle this request but was a little bit befuddled that I couldn't show him an example of where we had. It was one of many times that I lamented the fact that - to quote a great John Eddie tune - "If you wanna stick around, ya gotta play some Skynyrd."

Many times over the years, I've approached clients with some really fringy ideas. Ideas that I knew would work, but would upset the apple cart of what they're used to doing. At first the client sounded intrigued, but as the project progressed, people got scared and the execution got whittled down to something progressive, but not life-changing (at best), or something that was only a mild improvement from status quo (more often).

This is the equivalent of the musician who goes into a club to play his own original music, only to give in to the drunk in the back who screams, "Free Bird!" Not that there's anything wrong with Skynyrd, mind you, but just as you're not likely to be blown away from another rendition of a song you've heard a thousand times, your audience isn't likely to be blown away by an execution they've seen a thousand times.

So while it's inevitably true that playing Skynyrd keeps you around, if you want to break from the crowd, you truly have to push the envelope and do something different, and I get excited every time I meet with a client asking to do exactly that.


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