Monday, October 29, 2007

Where the money is

I was cemented in a meeting the other day, volleying product, segmentation and pricing ideas to and fro. Enjoyable exchange, but our rallies (thinking) stagnated – where to go, what to sell, for how much, how to go to market, etc. As yet another thought hit the net (or soared beyond the baseline; I forget), I thought about a bank robber and his sage advice.

Willie Sutton liked to rob banks. Lots of them. In a career spanning from the late 1920s to Sutton's final arrest in 1952 -- with a number of prison terms in between – Slick Willie robbed more than 100 banks. When asked why he robbed banks, Sutton opined, "Because that's where the money is."

Sutton shared, with pride, how the medical profession adopted "Sutton's Law"--the idea of looking for the obvious, before going further afield, when diagnosing. The "law" was coined by a medical professor who recalled that Sutton, when asked by a reporter why he robbed banks, had answered with his famous line.

Except it never happened that way. As he later admitted:

"The irony of using a bank robber's maxim as an instrument for teaching medicine is compounded, I will now confess, by the fact that I never said it. The credit belongs to some enterprising reporter who apparently felt a need to fill out his copy...

"If anybody had asked me, I'd have probably said it. That's what almost anybody would say. couldn't be more obvious.

"Or could it?

"Why did I rob banks? Because I enjoyed it. I loved it. I was more alive when I was inside a bank, robbing it, than at any other time in my life. I enjoyed everything about it so much that one or two weeks later I'd be out looking for the next job. But to me the money was the chips, that's all."
It couldn’t be more obvious. Back to our ideation. The answer – what to sell and to whom – crystallized. Follow the money.

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