Tuesday, July 17, 2012

“Sometimes, you have to go left.”


If you’re a fan of political banter, you might view this headline as a pitch for socializing medicine or taxing the wealthy. However, if instead you’re a fan of the late Al McGuire, coach of Marquette’s national championship men’s basketball team, the statement might have a different meaning. I learned this line was a favorite of the father of the Jim Abbot, the baseball pitcher, whose memoir I’ve listened to on CD while on a recent roadtrip (more about Abbot in a future post).

Seems that the most direct path that Coach McQuire took every day to practice on campus dictated that he took a right turn at an intersection near campus. One day, after hundreds of times of automatically taking the "right" path, on a whim he instead took a left.  The alternate took him away from the city into rural Wisconsin. He enjoyed the diversion so much that once every month or so he “took a left” and spent his time exploring a side of the world that he have never been exposed to during a rough and tumble childhood in New York City.

The lesson for all of us, media professionals in particular? Sometimes, when you’ve always taken a "right” and produced something in the same predictable way for an uncountable number of cycles, why not takeg a left? Always written that lead newsletter article yourself? Instead, offer the opportunity to someone who will likely bring a new vantage point. Have you always created a print narrative to tell a story or make a point? Consider a video instead to tell your story. Always used PowerPoint? Try Prezi for a change. Always produced something of a certain length? Go longer – or shorter. Never used a caricature or illustration? Ditch the photo and commission an artist to create something that will create an impact.

Of course, measure the results by looking at the numbers and by listening to audience input. But if you don’t go left once in a while, maybe you’re not living, well,  right.

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