According to Robin Hogarth, a 'wicked environment' is one where "feedback on decisions is infrequent, it can be distorted (e.g., biased by unexpected events), and [decision makers] cannot learn from the decisions they did not take." [Emphasis mine.] Hogarth wrote one of my favorite books, Educating Intuition, and is mentioned admiringly by Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow.
I've been trying to get a client to tell me why she bought a product and how she's using it, but she is not interested in my concerns and will not reply. Of course, I haven't built enough relationship trust with her yet, but my maddening problem is that I only have 5 (five) customers. I cannot get any kind of reliable read on the market in these conditions!
When I was an account executive at Ogilvy working on the Compaq account, we ran a wonderful ad in the Wall Street Journal with the headline, "It's not just that 97% of all COMPAQ owners are satisfied. It's why." It was a full page ad illustrated with a pie chart where the 3% gap had been transformed into a smile. We called it "Smiling Pie."
That ad was the most successful we ever ran, according to the feedback system we had in place. Then a buddy of the Compaq CEO called him and said, "Hey, I saw you guys recruited PAC MAN as a company spokesperson. Heh, heh, heh." The CEO immediately killed the ad. I did NOT fight back, I just asked, "Did anyone TELL him that it has pulled more responses than any other advertisement we've ever run in the Wall St. Journal? Aren't we interested to see what those responses were??"
I was told that the ad's performance was irrelevant. Despite the fact that David Ogilvy said "We sell or else." Getting good results didn't matter. Obeying the CEO mattered. THAT's a wicked environment.
That incident at Ogilvy wasn't unusual. After 25 years in marketing, I could tell you six more stories. My point is that today, as I try to grow a business from a very small base of clients, I'm more aware than ever how difficult it is to find out if you're doing it right in marketing.