Don’t Just Be a Talking Head…Listen Too! (or The Six Blind Men and the Elephant)

Six Blind Men

Not too long ago, the Wingman crew was working on a unique social media campaign. The copy had to be just right. The imagery needed to hit it out of the park. The call-to-action needed to be intriguing. The purpose had to be conveyed clearly. The Wingman crew was represented well in this instance having participation from social media, graphic design, copywriting, and business development.

It was an unfortunately memorable process in this instance. To start, each team member focused solely on their responsibility. The result was a communication that was “okay” but just didn’t fire on all cylinders. Thankfully, the Wingman crew is a team and we continually work together on campaigns – internal and for our clients. The crew came together and listened to one another. We all provided our take on what was needed and why. And we used this information to re-jig the entire communication into something pretty spectacular.

The Six Blind Men and the Elephant

This experience made me recall one of my favourite stories growing up and one that I have referenced many times in my career as a leader. Originally from Buddhist teachings is the story of, “The Six Blind Men and the Elephant.” While I like the Buddhist version, I am fonder of the poem version by John Godfrey Saxe. It starts:

It was six men of Indostan

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant

(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind.

The gist of the story is that each wise blind fellow touches a different part of the elephant and draws a conclusion about what an elephant is from a singular point of view. One touches its tail and declares, “Why, an elephant is exactly like a rope,” and another believes an elephant is exactly like a hose after touching it’s trunk. Each in his own opinion concludes that the elephant is like a wall, a snake, a spear, a tree, a fan and a rope, depending upon where they had touched. They have a heated debate as they are all correct and yet they are also all incorrect. Because they are each so sure of what they “know” from their perspective, they do not listen to the other wise men and thus, the conflict is never resolved.

And so these men of Indostan

Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right

And all were in the wrong!

This parable has so many learning opportunities in modern business. I have been a part of numerous multi-discipline projects and see the same issue almost every time. The individual from legal will focus on the problem at hand from the lens of how law plays into the equation. Finance will opine from a finance standpoint. Operations will use an operations point of view. And so on. This can be a great thing if everyone is open to each other’s opinion and frame of reference. When they are not, they are no different than the six blind men and the elephant.


The poem concludes with the following moral:

So oft in theologic wars,

The disputants, I ween,

Rail on in utter ignorance

Of what each other mean,

And prate about an Elephant

Not one of them has seen!

If you are on the fence about hiring marketing firepower for your team or possibly outsourcing, then know this… two heads are better than one and ten heads are better than two. But, this is only true if they are all working together. Talking heads that do not listen run the risk of being pratting on about an elephant that they clearly do not fully see.

The Wingman crew has many different perspectives and can offer you new insight. You don’t have to be a blind man unsure of how to complete your marketing tasks. With direct marketing, social media and website development, Wingman can get you off the ground to see the whole picture. You don’t have to fly solo. Book a Wingman today.

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