The internets are full of success stories that demonstrate the amazing impact of thoughtful and well-executed projects. Lots of them originate from young businesses that are bold by nature or brands that are looking for mindshare among the 18-24 and 25-34 demographics. They’re usually held up as case studies that demonstrate the great rewards that come with innovation, risk taking, good planning and diligent execution.
Marketers everywhere want to achieve the same levels of success as the projects they envy. We set goals for ourselves. We build excitement. We have brainstorming sessions about the ‘big idea’ and get ourselves excited about the possibilities. But when it really comes down to it, despite there being a sense of urgency attached to the aggressive goals we set for ourselves, risks often aren’t taken and necessary change doesn’t materialize. Everyone wants to achieve the same type of results as those they look up to, but most aren’t willing to take the necessary steps to get there.
We’re risk adverse. I’m sure you’ve heard this statement hundreds of times – and there is nothing wrong with it. Some institutions like to stay as far away from risk as possible and prefer to make very deliberate, calculated decisions that they know they can control. It really comes down to who your stakeholders are and the management style of whoever is running the show.
The problem with sticking to this mentality when setting aggressive goals is that more time ends up being spent trying to prevent failure than to ensure success - undermining your goal every step of the way. Every great business started by someone taking a leap of faith. Many great campaigns are built upon foundations of change. Things that were once thought of as impossible have been achieved because someone decided to do things differently.
Setting aggressive goals without opening yourself to new ideas is like having an identity crisis or multiple personalities: one in pursuit of an ideal, the other more focused on protecting what is than what could be. Great success is often achieved through innovation. Think of all the standout success stories you’ve heard throughout your life – I am willing to bet that all, if not the vast majority, involve disruption or innovation.
So if you’re risk adverse, do yourself a favour: think about the level of risk you’re willing to take and set your goals accordingly. There are plenty of highly successful organizations that are extremely calculated when it comes to achieving their goals: think BMW or Hewlett-Packard. Instead, recognize your aversion to risk and focus on setting realistic goals.
This is a good thing for two reasons:
The first being that you aren’t sending mixed internal signals. Successes are grounded in clarity, diligence and strategic thinking. It’s hard to be strategic without clear direction right?
The second being that if you manage to succeed at meeting realistic goals consistently over a period of time, your culture will gradually move toward being less adverse to risk – unlocking greater possibilities for future endeavors.
There is nothing wrong with learning to walk before you run, but you have to be realistic about what you can achieve. The alternative is, of course, to pursue the ideal by setting an aggressive goal and then actually doing what needs to be done to achieve it… in its entirely. One-hundred percent. No ifs, ands or buts.
The latter is a lot more fun and much more gratifying when it works out in your favour, but I’ll leave that for another day.
What about you? Are you a big ideas person or do you prefer to play it safe? Have you ever worked on projects with aggressive goals where people were unwilling to take necessary steps or change the status quo?