Sometimes, Big Picture sucks

A project is made up of smaller parts. Each smaller part is developed on its own. The success of the project depends on the smaller parts, working together, doing their smaller part thing and being of general use to everyone involved.

A Web site or a marketing campaign or a book or anything creative – they’re all created using some combination of strategy and action and implementation, and within each of these stages is a billion more pieces, and after those pieces are thrown together there’s another round of revision and .. seriously.

What a lot of work, right?

It’s no wonder we often let little mistakes slide. We go through a lot to get it close to a final project, and we fall in love with our mistakes because they came from us. They’re part of us. They make it us.

So we ignore them. And we chalk it up to seeing The Big Picture.

The Big Picture Screws You Up

I’m the kind of person who looks at the complete picture. That’s important. That’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s what it says in all of those fancy marketing books, and that’s what you learn in college and, so, you know, it’s got to be true, amen.

But sometimes, looking at the big picture can distract from the details.

Sorry. Did I say sometimes? I meant all the time.

The Big Picture blurs the details. It allows us to forget the mistakes. It projects success to areas it may not belong, creating a net effect not unlike an optical illusion, our mind filling in the holes with what we assume should be there. It’s an effective way to plan, but an awful way to execute.

See, here’s the reason the Big Picture sucks sometimes: every detail matters, and when you’re working Big Picture, you have a habit of forgetting the frames therein. There’s a balance, dude. A balance.

A Real World Example: The Albums of Pink Floyd.

Yeah. I’m going there.

In the annals of Rock Stardom, Pink Floyd is often pushed into the top 10, especially by those who grew up in the 60s and 70s. They were innovative and wrote some great albums and opened up the airwaves to weird experimental stuff.

Growing up, I loved Pink Floyd. Could not find a single item of fault, from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn to The Division Bell, I was utterly in love. They could do no wrong.

Essentially, it was a Big Picture fandom. At the time, I didn’t possess the filter that allowed me to love a band while simultaneously hating an album FROM that band. I couldn’t do it. So while there were certain albums I’d never listen to – because, you know, I didn’t really like them – I couldn’t transfer it to the band as a whole.

There’s a reason Pink Floyd isn’t mentioned in the same breath as The Beatles. Outside their stretch of five albums in the 70s, in which no one could touch them (Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Wall), they put out a lot of crap.

Big Picture, they’re a classic band. Look at the details, and you’ve got The Final Cut. And that album is an absolute piece of shit.

Which Brings Us To…

Okay, so here’s the awful truth: changing our process from campaign-driven to detail-driven is impossible.

Well, hey. It’s POSSIBLE. But it’s not RECOMMENDED.

Because, when it comes down to it, we need the Big Picture. Without it, we have no direction.

But we need to change our mindset, understanding that the overarching strategy and plan is a roadmap toward a final product, not the final product itself. And, we need to understand that the Big Picture may change as we wade through the details, and we need all parties on the same page, realizing that the Devil’s in those details, and the Devil never wants to make things easy.

The Devil would just as soon you not notice him at all.

(Originally posted at Black Marks on Wood Pulp.)