When presenting proposal concepts, I often speak of or refer to the ‘science’ of proposals and the ‘laws of physics’ as they apply to proposals. By these I am referring to the basic, fundamental principles I consider to be the basis of good proposal practices.
Those of you who have seen me present know that we often lead with the Mark Twain quote, “It seems to me that common sense isn’t all that common.” I believe this is true. Or perhaps I’d spin it a bit and say that common sense seems to often get lost in the heat of battle, over time or just due to lack of attention.
I’ve recently come across a quote by Thomas H. Huxley that ties Mr. Twain’s quote with the concept of the ‘science of proposals. He said, ‘Science is organized common sense…’ I really like the way that plays into our approach to proposals. That is, using a common set of basic principles (common sense if you will) as the foundation for helping organizations produce first class proposals (the organized part).
His quote concludes with, “…where many a beautiful theory was killed by an ugly fact.” I greatly relate to this concept as well In my 20+ years in the game, I’ve seen and heard a great many ‘theories’ regarding proposals…many of which, “sound great on paper” (as I like to put it.) but don’t hold up in actual practice. As an example -One leading consultant puts forward that a sales person or knowledge expert should, as part of their job, be able to write well. Those of us in the profession of proposals know all too well that this is not true. Further, we understand the severe consequences of believing this to be true and expecting to receive superbly written, proposal ready content from sales or knowledge experts. Oh sure, it does happen, but in my experience this is the rather rare exception rather than the rule. More often, the ‘ugly fact’ doing the killing of the beautiful theory is that we, the proposal support function we need to provide the necessary writing/editing skills. The reality is that ‘common sense’ tells us that sales people and knowledge experts are hired for their skill in doing their respective jobs – selling, customer relations, product knowledge, the ability to develop solutions, etc. and not because they write well.
Another quote, one that I’ve used often, that comes to mind related to trying to support a beautiful flawed theory is, “It’s like trying to teach a pig to dance. It will annoy the pig and frustrate you.” (And no, by this I’m not suggesting sales people or knowledge experts are pigs.