We pledge to be foolish in 2013. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but give me a chance to explain. During this time of year, I tend to do a lot of self-evaluation of the company and myself. As usual, I start with a year review of the good and the bad trying to find patterns and correlations with our actions and the outcomes.
This year I found myself going back further than 2012. 2013 will mark my twentieth year in business, which is pretty good considering most people gave me three months to survive. I don’t blame them for thinking otherwise. Conventional wisdom and all things logical said that I would not survive. I was basically “foolish” for dreaming.
When you’re 23 and fresh out of college you don’t have the experience and knowledge of a 20 year veteran to tell you what is possible and what is not. You don’t know any better, so you don’t question conventional wisdom and logic. You “foolishly” go on about your business as if what you are doing is the right thing. The only thing.
So what’s my point?
As businesses, especially the ones that have been operating for a long time, we forget to be “foolish”. Our “foolishness” is replaced with experience and wisdom. Sadly, over time this leads to complacency. When we reach this point we get comfortable, we stop asking questions and we tend to go with the flow. We stick with the formula we have established on how we should run our business and we follow it to a tee.
What’s wrong with being comfortable?
The late Steve Jobs ends his commencement speech to the Stanford graduating class of 2005 by telling them to, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” The “staying hungry” part is more ingrained in us. It’s survival of the fittest. We do it without even noticing, whether it’s fighting over the last drumstick at the dinner table or the last Xbox at Wal-Mart on Black Friday. The “staying foolish” part is harder. It’s not in our nature to question things when everything is going well. We even have phrases like “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” to remind us not to question what is established and easy. However, when we fail to question the establishment we fail to evolve. Ultimately, if we fail to evolve, we fail to grow and therein lies the problem.
The last four to five years have been tough on everybody. Growth has been non-existent to negative and we were all too busy trying to survive to question what we believed was already “working”. Yet, this complacency is often the root of stagnant growth. Apple is one of the few companies that flourished during this time. They have managed to have record sales quarter after quarter. Apple has been able to achieve this because they are “foolish”. They never allow themselves to get comfortable. They question every product and every function of a product.
In evaluating my business this year, I have found that over the last 20 years we were most successful when we were “foolish”. We we’re at our best when we questioned conventional wisdom. Why do we have to do it this way? How can we do it differently or better? It is this mindset that has allowed us to do insanely great work for our clients. Ultimately, it is this mindset that has allowed us to grow our client’s bottom line.
What does this all mean?
In 2013, we hope you join our pledge to be “foolish”. It may seem odd or uncomfortable at first, but different is good. While being different socially may be frowned upon, in marketing it is our holy grail. It is how we separate ourselves from your competition. It defines us and becomes our brand. So let’s start 2013 by thinking different and being foolish and maybe, like Apple, we too can experience unlimited growth, innovation and development
I wish all of you a happy and foolish New Year!