“Choices are the hinges of destiny.” — Pythagoras

There is a really strange phenomena that I have seen happen twice in my career but my last exposure to it was, no doubt, the most profoundly bizarre—to date—and eclipsed all previous experiences.  It goes like this: Architecture firm hires a person who claims that he is a, “Marketing Genius”.   To all observers who do not have  love-goggles nor beer-goggles on, it is very obvious that this is a ruse.

“Listen PAL, I can bring in work for yoose and yer dere firm, jus’ like I have done all over da world. In fact, I ran my own firm for many years…ya..ya….very successful firm…I am not doing it anymore you see because I made all of my money, now, I want to help yer firm prosper. Hire me and den my best friend and da skize da limit, baby! And if anyone catches on, it’s out da door for dem, baby!”

They flounder around for several years, bring in very little—nay, no work— and the firm actually goes in the hole, waiting for  the self-proclaimed genius to produce something. When he does, finally, bring in something, it is typically small and does not cover nearly one-tenth of the salary that they have already paid to him.  The projects they already have  in-house he has commandeered and typically takes credit for, even though he has had little to do with them, other than adding confusion and nonsense.

fountain_head_architect_architecture“You did this? All by yourself?   Was there a team that helped you?”  “No, no, I did this on my own.” “My-oh-my, you do like drawing tall-towers, do any of them ever get built?”

OK, the FIRST CLUE should have been…when someone gives themselves an oblique title, it is just…weird, but then to add the word “genius” behind it is even more bizarre.  Genius, is a term that is given— BY OTHERS— to someone they recognize as have an exceptional intelligence or a testing board that tells you, “Your IQ is in the 98th percentile, it is in genius range.”  Genius is not a self-proclaimed title and never one that is added after a word such as “marketing”, “consulting”, etc….that should have been warning number one.  The appropriate introduction is, “I do marketing,” NOT, “I am a Marketing Genius.”  It is similar to when people introduce themselves as, “Hi, Bob and Cindy Smith, we’re Good Christians.”  WHAT? Why are you telling me your religion and if you really feel the need, you just say that you are ‘Christians’, the modifier is up to me. 

 I will cut a little slack here, let’s say someone was naive enough to buy into the “Marketing Genius” proclamation, as they did, but, how long before it dawns on you that this person you hired:

  1.  Does not know how to market; has not brought any jobs of profit in and the existing-jobs he has laid his hands on have died on the vine..after two-years, no results. “
  2. That this person is taking you for a ride. (To con someone either their intellect has to be lower than yours or their naivety has to be on the level of a child. Neither is a good scenario. It is good for the person doing the conning but not the one being conned.
  3. A true marketing genius works on commission, NOT salary.  The acceptance of a salary shows the true intention of said individual.

People ask, “Why–if there is no results in TWO YEARS–would he still be there?”  The simple answer is, “It is like a religion, there is faith that he will produce…one day, even though ,all evidence is to the contrary.”  However, the more on-mark and truthful response is that the person/people who hired him have fallen into “Escalation of Committment”, which was first elucidated by Barry Straw in 1976  in his paper, “Knee Deep in The Big Muddy: A study of escalating commitment to a chosen course of action.”  In more recent years it has also been known as, “Sunk Cost Fallacy”.  Here is what happens: The decision does not makes sense, but, there comes a point in the process where it shifts from being money or market driven to being ego-driven.  To now admit that the new-hire was a very poor choice would be to admit incompetence and the inability, not only, to judge talent from non-talent ,but, the next step of not being able to differentiate truth from lie, thus, instead of making the logical-step and cutting their losses, immediately, they instead save face–so they think—and instead add time to the problem, incorrectly thinking, by adding more time also adds more opportunity for success.  Faulty Logic.  The choices a firm makes will determine their future or lack of one.  Adding more time also adds more money, i.e.: More “Sunk Cost” and the committment escalates and they are deeper in, “The Big Muddy”, thus, to compensate for more cost they let competent people go to cover said expenditures STILL wanting to believe that with enough time and faith this person will produce…something.  Vegas would take the opposite odds any day AND cover the spread.

The amazing part is that others could see this with clarity, years ago….but as in a religion, the poor decision makers who hired the “Marketing Genius”, wanted it to be true. There is no excuse for people in our profession not to see what is to come,  just by the very nature of what we do for a living.


“I am an Architect, I know what is to come by the principles upon which they are built.”



2 Responses to ““Choices are the hinges of destiny.” — Pythagoras”

  1. liz griffore Says:

    another excellent article and I really think the photos are a great demonstration..so true….

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