There is a restaurant down the road from our office. We’ve eaten their quite often but they always manage to get our order wrong. If I had to guess, they get it right about 30% of the time. It’s abysmal. It’s low on our list of lunch places.
In baseball, they have a name for players who only get their job right 30% of the time: Hall of Famers. That’s right, the best players in the world hit the ball less than half of the time. Over the course of their career, a baseball player will strike out thousands of times.
Conversations about failure are everywhere. They cover the importance of failure, trying things that might not work, doing things that don’t scale, moving fast while breaking things, and so much more. Almost as popular are counter points about quality, excellence, and seamless experiences.
Witnessing this trend, it’s clear they aren’t counterarguments at all. There may be some mild contradictions, but it seems more a difference in how they define failure. Few people are proposing to build failing businesses or risk more than you can afford to lose. It is different than the failure we were taught to fear in school.
It is making measured attempts, calculated attempts to validate an idea. Taking swings.
The path to innovation is not losing everything or continually starting from zero. It’s about stepping up to the plate as often as possible and swinging at what comes your way. You may strike out. You may even lose a couple games. Fortunately, no one is counting on your to get it right every time.
In a recent meeting with our leadership team at Polar Notion, we wanted to test the idea of design retainers. In hopes of filling in the downtime between projects, retainers seemed like a great fit. Conversation quickly began about creating a landing page, defining deliverables, and understanding the value to clients. Fortunately, we took a step back. Rather than creating this elaborate campaign, I ended up sending an email. 1 email to a client who seemed like the best fit for this service. “Hey man, we’re testing out an idea. Can we experiment on your brand for 3 months? Cost is on us.” Within 10 minutes, we had our first retainer.
The second email was to another close match. This time, the cost was $500 per month. A rock bottom price and steal for the value we provide, but optimizing the value wasn’t the point. We just wanted to make sure the service was worth paying anything for. We got an enthusiastic ‘yes’.
I sent a few more emails, wherein people said ‘no’. In my mind, these ‘failures’ were low impact and part of learning what people wanted. Months later, we now have a body of work that supports this service. The results are stunning. The deliverables and limitations have been refined by actual conversations with real clients. Whenever we get around to creating a landing page (it’s looking like we may not need to) the content and value will be clearly defined. There was no guessing or big investment, just quickly executed, small swings.
Checkout more thoughts on starting smaller. Also, we have a few ‘seats’ left on our latest iteration of the design retainer. If you’re interested in making consistent investments in your brand identify, let’s chat!