Participants make a Black Hat work
Over time, we have shared approaches to executing a good Black Hat review as a facilitator. Now it’s time to focus on one of the most critical ingredients – the participants! As the saying goes, “teamwork makes the dream work!” The merits of participants can make a Black Hat review work well or make it a tragic loss of time and resources.
Participants are selected due to their knowledge of a competitor and/or the opportunity being pursued.
Below are guidelines for how participants can be part of the solution:
Any well-run Black Hat review will share read ahead materials that are important for participants to absorb. These materials provide background information on the opportunity and the competitors. READ THE MATERIAL!
We all have day jobs. However, a participant was selected because they have valuable knowledge and perspective that can help a Black Hat review succeed. Sadly, we’re not omniscient so we all have gaps in knowledge that may be addressed by read-ahead materials.
Ensure the material is absorbed and solidify your understanding of its application. Consider and write down what the impact of the information known and learned has on your competitor.
- Read materials provided
- Make notes on what was learned
- Draft observations on how your competitor wins or loses based on your knowledge
Be actively involved
Black Hat reviews are a full-contact sport. Sitting there in a passive manner without active participation in discussions and exercises is not productive. This does not mean to “suck all the air out of the room” with endless musings. Give thought to your contributions and then make them. Conversely, sitting in a session as a mute with nothing to offer unless prompted by name is not productive.
Maintain focus on the moment. If you’re emailing, regularly stepping away from the session, making phone calls or otherwise not focused on the moment…that is NOT active participation.
- Use your initial observations on your competitor to make immediate contributions
- Think before you speak and if you have something to offer…do it
- Tune out distractions so you can be actively engaged
Be a good teammate
Any well-designed Black Hat review has a structure or agenda. This is essential to enable focus on relevant topics and to manage time wisely. Participants need to conform to the flow of the session. Inevitably, non-sequiturs will occur and that is normal. However, participants should ask themselves if what they are about to offer is aligned with the topic or agenda item. If it is not, wait until a better moment before throwing a session off track.
Recognize that there will be disagreements on a topic. Keep discussions civil and based on facts. Challenging ideas is not personal.
The best outcome and understanding of a competitor come from examining them from an objective point of view. Debate is a healthy thing and helpful in achieving this goal of objectivity.
- Align contributions with agenda and topics
- Don’t derail a discussion with YOUR agenda
- Recognize that debates must be based on facts and analysis
- Debate ideas in a respectfully and objective manner
Be honest about your value
Selecting participants for a Black Hat review is not always done in a thoughtful manner. This may lead to participants being selected (perhaps drafted) who really don’t add much value to a Black Hat review. This isn’t to denigrate their value as a professional, but no single person adds value in every situation. Value in a Black Hat review comes from direct knowledge of a competitor and aspects of the pursued opportunity.
Don’t try to look smarter on a topic that you simply don’t know. If you’re engaging in a hypothetical, state it as such. Otherwise, you might lead the team to a conclusion that is simply false.
If you are selected to be a participant and you’re baffled as to why, ask what value you’re supposed to contribute. Having someone involved who can’t add value is a waste of time and resources for all involved. If the rationale provided makes no sense, respectfully decline to participate and state why.
- Define what value you bring as a participant
- If that definition isn’t clear or convincing, decline participation
FedSavvy Strategies Takeaway
- Be prepared…don’t wing it.
- Be actively involved…wallflowers don’t make wins happen.
- Be a good teammate…go with the flow and not driven by a personal agenda.
- Be honest about your value…don’t be someone you’re not.
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