An unusually love-song-ish story in the WSJ today tells us all about Michelle Gass, a Starbucks executive who is apparently a key architect of whatever comeback strategy the massive chain is supposedly pursuing. My favorite detail:
At Starbucks’s Seattle headquarters, Ms. Gass converted a conference space down the hall from [Howard] Schultz’s office into what she dubbed the “transformation room,” where she huddles with other executives to hash out the new plans. Ms. Gass had the room painted red and purple with the hope it would help create an atmosphere of action.
Oooooh! That is so outside the box! That is crazy — a red and purple room, man that is really going to inspire some action. (Ms. Gass explains that she is “not a traditionally trained strategist,” and never even worked at McKinsey or Bain, so that’s how she comes up with those kind of ultra-rad ideas like a red and purple action room.)
Apart from reminding me just how glad I am that I work for myself, what this made me ponder was how a detail like this can be treated at different points in the arc of a company’s story. In this article it’s definitely serving as an indicator of energetic behind the scenes action.
But if the same thing came up after the fact as a reporter was piecing together some kind of aftermath “what went wrong” story about some brand/company that had gone off the rails, I guarantee you this detail would be evidence of how that brand/company had lost its way and taken its eye of the ball. “They painted a room red and purple as a way of inspiring action — too bad they were spending time and money on conference room paint jobs instead of innovating and serving their customers,” etc. etc.
Not that I’m saying Starbucks is off the rails, I have no opinion on that. I’m saying the “meaning” of details like this can be spun a number of ways, depending on the context.