Evolution is Mandatory – The new normal demands iteration, evolution and adaptation

The only constant is change. Heraclitus

No matter how much you learn, experience and know, there’s only one thing you can be truly certain of. Things change. It’s the one thing that’s always true, the one constant in a dynamic world. No matter how smart you are, how far you’ve traveled, how much you’ve figured out – you can’t stand still. And you can’t expect the world to do so, either.

Things are changing at an even greater and greater pace today. What we used to hold true is now passé, deeply regarded facts and beliefs are history, business models disrupted daily.

And the real world has gotten more complex. Technology, speed, fragmentation all make doing things both easier and more difficult at the same time. Collaboration and co-opetition complicating how you work and who you work with. And the rise of data and analytics driving the need for nimbleness and reactivity.

But I’m here to tell you that evolution and iteration were always part of doing great work. And it’s time to recognize it, embrace it and dive in. Stratecution, anyone?

Reality doesn’t do what you want it to do. Here is the main reason I regard execution as highly as strategy – because strategy is developed in the boardroom, but execution is designed for the real world. No matter how brilliant your strategy, it’s just a hypothesis. A smart framework for doing. And having a great strategy still can’t bend reality to its will. So you have to be prepared for learning and evolving your plan and your actions to fit the realities you face. Because the real world has lots of factors you can only guess about – or can’t possibly plan for at all. What the competition is doing, what’s happening with the economy, what the weather might do to sales. These are all factors that will evolve your execution, strategy notwithstanding.

The real world is just plain messy. You can start any project with a simple strategic model, but by the time you’re through executing it, it’s likely to be quite different than you’d imagined. And no matter how well you think you know your target audience, they are much more complex than “Women 18-49”, or “Lapsed Users”.  You’ll no doubt learn as you go that your plan will require more layers to your efforts and communications for different constituents, more phases of follow-ups you never expected, and additional types of contacts than you’d prepared. Efficiency be damned.

Learning and adaptation are key. Data is driving an even greater need for evolution. We can now know more about the impact of our efforts, as we implement them. While we used to wait for an after-the-fact evaluation of success or failure via some rear-view mirror research – we now are taking the pulse of our performance, day in and day out. So you better believe you’re going to have to iterate and evolve, based on learning. Standing pat on your in-going activities in a set-it-and-forget-it way, despite on-the-ground learning, is not only out-dated. It’s a plan for failure.

This is why live testing of approaches and ideas is so hugely important – because you just can’t know what works in advance. So take some different approaches to market and learn what works best, in real conditions with real people in real life.

Real time is the norm. Speaking of real, real time is now the norm. Consumers expect the world to be at their beck and call. Data at their fingertips, entertainment on every screen when they want it, customer service 24/7. So you better be prepared to deliver. Don’t enter into Social Media or start tweeting in the way you used to create a TV commercial – with a one-off and a wait-and-see. Be available, be adaptive, be real time.

Collaboration makes ideas better. Working together is the norm, nowadays. More people are involved in bringing communications programs to life than ever imagined. The traditional “creative team” now includes lots more people, proving creativity does truly come from anywhere – media agencies, technologists, content partners, etc. So be prepared to collaborate and iterate. Where an idea starts doesn’t necessarily indicate where it will end up. Which is a good thing – as long as you are open to evolution. Collaboration makes ideas better, so get ready or get out of the way.

I think it’s about time people understood that everything is iterative. The new world and the new way of working demand it. So don’t resist it – evolution and change are good. For ideas and for you.

What do you think? Love to hear your thoughts.


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