In Praise of Quitting...for the Right Reasons

Has your marketing plan ever been scrutinized by "been there once, done that once" club?

A a couple of examples: 

"Tradeshows don't work.   We didn't get any leads from the one we did last year".

"This publication has terrible response rates.    We tried advertising in it once".

Trying anything once in marketing is a bad idea -- especially if the audience/product/company is new and has yet to build awareness in the market.

The_dip_3 Seth Godin's new book, The Dip, is a concise guide on when to quit (when you're about to hit the law of diminishing returns) and when to persist (with an eye on long-term returns).   It's refreshing to find a change management book that one may actually have time to read in the midst of a transition.

It's also heartening to get permission to quit, in the midst of "grit-your-teeth for glory" business tomes.

Although you might be pursuing the wrong market, don't quit it for the wrong reasons.  An extra data point or two to test the waters may give you the answer -- all you need are the guts to follow through.   

Is Your Business Hard-Wired? Thoughts on Risk-Taking

Adversity can seed innovation.   The boldest ideas come from those who have nothing to lose.  How can we avoid being spoiled by success and infuse a "fresh start" mentality into our everyday thinking?   

I recently re-read two favorite books (new thinking doesn't require a 2007 press date) that provide a blueprint for taking bold, yet calculated risks:   Working Identity and Seeing What's Next.

Reinventing ourselves could be the most difficult re-positioning exercise of all.   Especially if we're successful.   What a great paradigm for reinventing the successful business.  Established careers rest on strong foundations.  Skills, CVs, career networks, personal networks, industry knowledge all serve to keep us on the same track.    Any effort we exert helps us go faster and farther in the same direction.   7788_c_2

But what if we want to switch tracks?    We often lack the infrastructure to make the change.   

In Working Identity -- Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career, Herminia Ibarra addresses the obstacles that success can create -- barriers that discourage us from thinking more broadly about our lives.  This is sage advice for business leaders, not just career changers, given the fact that success discourages change. 

Seeing_whats_next In Seeing What's Next, Clayton Christensen addresses how successful (read: profitable) business models encourage businesses to pass up new opportunities and emerging markets, and how to create an environment that embraces change without testing the patience of the risk-averse.

We don't have to start from zero, but we can visualize the process of doing so.   

Thinking "fresh start" could inspire a crop of fresh ideas.

The Economic Impact of Creativity: Globally and Locally

006075690x_01__bo2204203200_pisitbdp500a In The Rise of the Creative Class, The Flight of the Creative Class, and,  Richard Florida investigates what makes world regions creative, productive and competitive, as a result.  Looking beyond traditional economic productivity indices, he characterizes the “3 T’s of Economic Development”: Technology, Talent and Tolerance.  Creative capital drives growth in an idea-driven economy.     


How do we apply this global premise locally?  This week the Ewing Marion Kaufmann Foundation released a report on state competitiveness, looking at several factors.   My state, Massachusetts, landed on top of the list.  I recently investigated relocating a corporate HQ in Boston for a high-growth software company.  It was challenging to choose a location with proximity to affordable housing, universities, suburban bedroom communities and a vibrant town center. Despite the #1 ranking, we're still far from creating a creative renaissance in Massachusetts–- high housing rates discourage newcomers, management training programs are rare and start-up executives

seldom find the time to mentor young talent. 

We can all have an impact on our region’s economic growth, and could do worse than to apply macro principles to our daily practice of attracting, hiring and developing talent in our organizations.

Sorry Sun Tzu, Strategy Based on Military History is History

Artofwar No offense intended.  I have several copies of The Art of War -- all given to me by former bosses.  Could it be that our current generation of CEOs feel compelled to quote military analogies because they never served in the military?

Conventional military strategy is not the path to victory in the 21st century.  And it has lost its effectiveness on the corporate battlefield as well.   Head to head competition doesn't build shareholder value -- it ravages it with inconsistent earnings and lower margins.

So what's the alternative?   Fortunately, there are several fresh opinions on the subject.  I'll start with one and post more ideas over the next couple of weeks:


A strategy guide I refer to often is Blue Ocean Strategy, 1591396190_01__scthumbzzz__5 which turns conventional strategic thinking on its head by offering paths to finding "uncontested market space" where you can build value for customers without getting battered by competitors first.   Quite often, creating value is about what you DON'T offer the customer -- why spend time and money to offer customers what they don't want, just because your competitors do?   

Thoughts on the software industry (my own industry):  application software is well-known for piling on more and more features in each release, but not building significant value as a result.  I use PowerPoint daily -- but 85% of the time I use features from release 3.0  (which was released over 10 years ago!).  Are more features adding more value, or more frustration?   I resent the extra space the new version takes up on my laptop.

Perhaps less really is more.   Or perhaps it's all about listening to the customer.  Which is what we should all be doing in the first place.