Optics - Say vs Do

Having "bad optics" suggests dodging the truth as technique. There is a better way.

These days, we hear a lot about optics. News people say "the optics aren't good," meaning, it doesn't look good. I understand what it means, but the trend is worrying.

Circus Sideshow (Parade de Cirque) by Georges Seurat

Cultural idioms often come with ethics. Most of us wouldn't want our spouse or boss to tell us that what we're doing "doesn't look good." Adopting more formal language creates a safe distance and seems to validate the process. A report on a politician's actions as merely having "bad optics" suggests a chess move – that dodging the truth is technique. I hope we can hold our public servants to an ethical standard not unlike at home or work.

Companies need to worry about optics, too. We challenge our clients to flip what they say and what they do. A conventional marketing approach seeks to find something interesting to say about what a company does. A healthier approach, one more attuned to the needs of customers today, is to say something interesting and do something about it.

Examining the optics of our actions suggests self-awareness, which is a good thing. Let's commit to doing what we say, and assume that how it looks reflects reality.