Eating Cotton Candy Strategy?

A mass of fluffy spun sugar, usually pink or blue, wrapped around a stick or a paper cone and found in boardrooms all over the world.

Kale Hungerson
May 14, 2018 · 3 min read

Cotton Candy Strategy is fluff, it gives people a certain rush but its value is zero, similarly to cotton candy, it has no substance. We’ve all experienced or are experiencing this mutation in our professional lives and it seems to be the result of filling unknowns with simplified knowns to mimic the appearance of completeness.

Ironically, the average cotton candy is the size of a football (American) yet its contents are equivalent to only 8 sugar cubes. It’s the appearance of volume.

Cotton Candy Strategy is a plague and it is easy to succumb to the temptations of generating and amplifying this thinking pattern but similarly to cotton candy, you’ll be charging to a headache for the short-term gain.

Here are 5 ways to identify Cotton Candy Strategies:

  1. Lots of Words. You’ve probably heard of the boy who cried wolf? It’s a fable about continuing to ask for help when you do not need it, with the result that people think you do not need help when you really need it. The parallel is substance which is by definition: the real physical matter of which a person or thing consists and which has a tangible, solid presence. If you notice that you’re hearing a lot about something, without seeing tangible representations in action, you’re probably in Candy Land.
  2. Lauding. A strategy that is a continuously mentioned strictly for awareness purposes, almost heroically, with no action or physical representation that prove task orientation and results are required, you’ve probably identified a myth which is Cotton Candy Strategy.
  3. Boundless. Can infinity change? When a strategy is lacking constraints, it is generally fluff, a great strategy isn’t a laterally moving target and the best strategies are ones that minimize the effort to work within the strategic boundaries. If you feel as though you’re chasing a butterfly with a net, look in your other hand, you’re probably holding…Cotton Candy Strategy.
  4. Ineffectual. When you get off a treadmill and you still feel as if you are running, that’s the constant of a Cotton Candy Strategy. You’re walking but you’re being manipulated into believing you are moving faster than you ever have, without putting in the work.
  5. Mystified. Are you leaving the boardroom confused? Do you have more questions than answers? Do you feel as though you’re missing something that everyone else clearly understands. Chances are that everyone in the room is equally mystified, and are all playing into the elusion.

After you identify a Cotton Candy Strategy, you owe it to yourself to force substance into the thought process with a very simple strategy of asking deliberate, thought provoking questions which in turn will engage others to disregard the fluff and focus on substance.

Here are 5 simple questions to force substantive thinking:

  1. Can you explain how this strategy will positively impact our business in a different way, so that I can better understand the purpose? Goal: Force an expanded explanation of the strategy, to improve clarity and generate second order thinking among the group.
  2. What are the specific components of this strategy and who will be responsible for what? Goal: Identification of specifics at the tactical level, ensuring strategy and tactics are separate.
  3. What are the next steps and when will we begin planning for implementation? Goal: Understand the purpose of the next meeting and create a need for tangible efforts to be applied to the strategy.
  4. What is the estimated timeline and start date for this strategy? Goal: Understand the time based boundaries of the strategy.
  5. What are the objectives and goals of this strategy that we will be measuring against? Goal: Identification of measurable indicators for success.

In the end, ditch the fluff and focus on substance similarly to human biology, it’s the only variable that keeps us moving.

Kale Hungerson

Written by

WebDev & MarTech professional with a passion for digital transformation, cold brew ☕, and 🌮s! Follow me @kalehungerson or visit

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