Playing It Safe Is Now Risky Business

The future of business will no longer be about who has been around the longest, has the most resources, or has built the best systems. It will be about dispelling old ways of thinking.

Playing It Safe Is Now Risky Business

by Ross Quintana

Posted on 10-18-2017

Be smart. Stay safe. Minimize risk. Business decisions of the past were made with those thoughts top of mind. The C-suite had to ensure they could justify their choices based on proven results and guaranteed returns from trusted practices. A risky campaign or proposal could destroy a career, so executives played it safe and offered up only those suggestions they knew would be accepted

The problem is, the script has flipped.

The market, society, and way we operate businesses have changed entirely. Doing what was once safe and worked is now risky. Being new, current, and cutting-edge is part of survival in a more competitive and global marketplace.

Yet in many organizations, the decision-making process has remained the same. New campaigns and marketing strategies that leverage emerging technologies or social novelties are often shot down or never get proposed in the first place because executives don’t have definitive proof that they’ll work.

Put another way, fresh thinking is being evaluated by old thinking. It’s what I call the “risk dilemma.”

Stability In Diversity

I recognize how hard it can be to abandon what was once thought valuable for what has no real proof of value just yet. But think about social media. Before there were any successful ROI use cases, early adopters had to be willing to go out on a limb—i.e., to shed the old thinking used to evaluate new technology with no track record

To sell this to your colleagues, you’ll need to educate them on the risks of not changing. You’ll have to build value for “new.” Companies have been doing this for years in their attempts to sell new products to consumers whose old products were still good. They trained consumers to think that new is better. See the parallel?

Old mindsets and decision-making criteria can destroy an organization from within. Many companies have experienced this already and are now casualties of the changing times. Most of them will blame disruptors or the market, but the truth is they couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt. The heretics among them went down with the ship because they failed to educate their peers about the new rules of risk and business. They were yelling iceberg, but perhaps not loudly enough.

Portfolio Of Risk

As I wrote in a recent post about how the retail industry can survive digital disruption, you don’t have to be a casualty of market shifts. But you do have to do things differently than you have in the past and respect the change. Change, of course, won’t happen overnight or in one proposal. Just as with your personal investments, this is about making smart choices and managing a portfolio of risk alongside “safe” initiatives.

So how do you integrate new solutions and ways of doing business without chaos and loss of brand identity? Back to our investment analogy, brand stability comes from diversity. Your need to put your proverbial eggs in many baskets to reduce risk. This includes your marketing strategies and channels. It’s time to mix standard channels and campaigns with a percentage of R&D marketing. The rule for the latter is not that it must succeed, or else lose funding, in 30 days. You have your standard marketing for that, and it hedges your risk to experiment.

As brands get better at this and start using technologies such as AI to predict outcomes and enhance business intelligence, the percentage of risky projects will increase as you find what works—thus changing them from risky to the “new safe.” Then time to rinse and repeat.

The future of business will no longer be about who has been around the longest, has the most resources, or has built the best systems. It will be about dispelling old ways of thinking. This reminds me of singing competitions. The majority of contestants come out and perform tried-and-true hits, note-by-note like the artist. But a few come out and dazzle with originals or new twists on previous songs. They’re taking a risk. Who do you think stands out more?

Businesses that can belt out “something else” over and over will win in the future. Safe bet, it’s a risk you’ll want to take.

Topics: Experience Cloud, Trends & Research, Insights Inspiration, Digital Transformation, Trends & Research, CMO by Adobe