Sunday, July 3, 2011

Execution Dependent

So the other night when we stayed up until sunrise talking about all sorts of nerdy things, as if we were in an Ethan Hawke movie, the filmmaker told us about a conversation he'd had with another industry professional where the man had referred to a project as "execution dependent."

Well, what does that mean? We wanted to know.

And evidently it means that the success of the project is dependent on its execution. In other words, it has to be good in order to succeed (like an independent film by somebody unknown) as opposed to a movie like Harry Potter or Fast Five, which is going to succeed regardless of whether it's well executed or not -- which is not to say that it will be poorly executed, simply that its success is unrelated to its quality.

The conversation drifted into the realm of journalism and film at that point -- and for the most part I think there was a consensus that journalism and film ought to be execution dependent -- but privately I started wondering about what it means for public diplomacy to be execution dependent. One of the recurring themes of PD is the need for metrics and the difficulty of assessing a project's success. There is an idea, I think, that most PD is and should be execution dependent -- but are there any reliable popcorn blockbusters in the world of PD? I'm not advocating for a strict diet of easy fixes, but I'm wondering if there might not be benefits to recognizing a few empty calorie, economic alternatives that could pad out a more sophisticated PD grand strategy?

I suspect that to some extent, that's what a lot of PD 2.0 is. It's cheap, relatively easy and can reach a large audience quickly -- but it's effectiveness has yet to be proven. Those who read this blog know I go back and forth on the merits of PD 2.0. Ultimately, I believe it's a vast source of untapped potential -- but I'm not convinced any nation or group has fully tapped it yet.

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