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  • Dex McLuskey

For Awesome, Aim For Octopus Over Platypus

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

A content marketing take on “Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth.”

Photo: K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

By Dex McLuskey


If you design by committee, you end up with a platypus. Let one visionary genius run with their crazy idea and you get an octopus.


The platypus and the octopus are two weird critters, but while many would view the latter as the wildlife equivalent of a Bugatti Veyron, the platypus is more Chevy Vega — seemingly put together from whatever could be found in the spare parts bin.


One of only five egg-laying mammals and with webbed feet, a tail like a beaver and a bill like a duck, the platypus is the Mr. Potato Head of the animal kingdom. It lacks teeth, so uses gravel to grind its food, which goes straight to its intestine because it doesn’t have a stomach.


Weird Creature: If you design by committee, you end up with a platypus.

The octopus, on the other hand, has three hearts that pump blue blood, a central brain that works in concert with eight more — one for each leg, which grow back if they’re lost. In three-tenths of a second they can change color and texture to match their surroundings or imitate other animals, and no bones means even the biggest specimen can squeeze through a tube the size of a quarter.


And if that wasn’t badass enough, they are venomous (the blue-ringed octopus is fatal to humans), some species rip the poisonous tentacles from deadly Portuguese man-o-war jellyfish to use as weapons, while big ones eat sharks.


While the platypus is something of a mishmash, the octopus is like the freaky brainchild of someone who had free rein to answer the question: “What would the ultimate sea creature be like?”


For content marketers, what this comparison means is that you’re more likely to get awesome results if you let your creators run with their vision.


When too many stakeholders review a video, podcast, blog or other piece of content, the risk is that, by the time the project goes through multiple iterations, it becomes so diluted and is such a poor imitation of the original vision that it’s the creative equivalent of a platypus.


It also makes content creation cumbersome. While companies appreciate the importance of being “nimble” and “agile,” too many are about as nimble and agile as a geriatric three-legged hippo with an arthritic hip and a dicky heart because they favor process over outcome.


Of course, if you’re doing something like heart surgery or investing millions in client money, process is paramount, but it can be counter-productive if you’re trying to respond to a news event with timely insights, as the agenda may move on while you wait for feedback from several busy stakeholders.


So if you want your content to be more octopus than platypus, put outcome before process, limit the number of reviewers and trust the creator with veto power over edits. The quality of your output will improve exponentially.