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The Scientist vs The Visionary

March 7, 2023

You don't have to be in business long to see how much we love a visionary. They get a lot of shine for doing their visionary thing. They have a clear idea of what the future could be. Evolution and change? We love that!

But is your obsession with being a visionary getting in the way of being the scientist your business needs?

Whether you call yourself a creative, an entrepreneur, or a CEO, you are, first and foremost, a person running a business, which means your resources are finite.

Instead of throwing spaghetti at the wall and attempting to make your vision come to life, I want to show you how to think strategically (like a scientist) and make it happen.

Thinking Strategically  

As an ex-theatre kid who grew up with a very active imagination, I, too, have endless ideas. The only difference is now I vet them properly before acting on them.

"Strategic thinking is an intentional and rational thought process that focuses on the analysis of critical factors and variables that will influence the long-term success of a business, a team, or an individual."

Translated: It's like reverse engineering something. Strategic thinking requires you to slow down and consider your problems, solutions, and how these could impact your business in the long term.

While pumping the breaks isn't nearly as enticing as chasing the creative stroke of genius you got late last night; it does ensure a few key things:

  • You're much more likely to pursue actions that help your business achieve its long-term goal—making your business more efficient.
  • You can avoid costly mistakes. 
  • It creates a more stable business that is much more proactive rather than reactive. 

The Science of Failing Well

While strategic thinking can help you mitigate certain risks, there's no way to avoid the occasional flop or failure, which is a good thing! Failure can feel like a loaded word, but it really is just a deviation from an expected outcome. 

"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." – Michael Jordan.

Failure comes in many different forms in business. But, between you and I, you should welcome certain kinds of failure because they can actually get you closer to making new discoveries.  

  • Simple Failures: (Also known as mistakes.) Simple failures usually happen when we know how to do something, but there's a breakdown in the process. Like when you know how to post content properly but mistakenly post it without a caption. 
  • Complex Failures: (These are accidents.) Complex failures are the result of unforeseen or unpredictable circumstances. Like when you accidentally share your entire Google Drive with a client because you didn't know clicking that button would result in that.
  • Intelligent Failures: (These are discoveries.) These are unintended results of a thoughtful foray into something. Like when you had a hunch that people were ready to get offline and meet IRL, so you planned an event. Perhaps the events were different from the raging success you thought they would be, but in talking to people face-to-face, you gained a deeper understanding of what your clients or audience really need right now. 

I'm sure it's obvious by now that we're after intelligent failures because it involves what?

Say it with me now...

Strategic Thinking!

How to Think Strategically 

I'm willing to bet you have been using a critical piece of strategic thinking since you were a kid (at least if you were anything like me.) If you found yourself asking,

"why are we doing it like that?"  It turns out you were a little genius because curiosity is key to developing this skill set. 

Let's break down the six steps you need to start thinking like a scientist rather than just a visionary.

1. Observe:
Just as a scientist wouldn't make a hypothesis without first observing, you shouldn't make random plans without first understanding how your business is performing. A deep understanding of your current state is crucial as it informs the actions you take. 

Say, for example, you wanted to assess your marketing; you might ask questions like

  1. What does our ability to gain new clients look like? What is our conversion rate? What is stopping this from improving?
  2. What are our current marketing or advertising activities? What are the results of them?
  3. What is our knowledge of the market? 

2. Direct: Where do you want to go from here? If you don't have a clear destination in mind, picking a route is next to impossible. 

Continuing with our marketing example, you may ask questions like

  1. What are the mission and values of our business?
  2. How will you know you are getting to where you want to be? What will have changed?

3. Quantify: We need goals; we need measurables! And look, even if you're "not a numbers person," we need a benchmark to aim for. 

Continuing with our marketing example, you may ask questions like

  1. What numbers are the most important for us to measure?
  2. Let me give you an example of how your previous answers inform the data you track. If, when you looked into your conversion, you recognized that your conversion is healthy but you don't have enough traffic. You would start to track data that's focused on awareness. 

4. Strategize: This step is all about charting your path. 

Continuing with our marketing example, you may ask questions like

  1. How could we get to our end goal? 
  2. What are all of the different things we could do?
  3. Of all of our ideas which ones align with our capacity, values, budget, time, etc.? 
  4. How might we start executing this?

5. Test: The fun part! You now get to run your experiment. Remember, even if you don't reach your goals, you've uncovered valuable pieces of information that you can use to iterate and get even closer to your end goal. 

6. Reflect: Part of being a truly great scientist, aka strategic thinker, is reflecting on the outcomes of your experiments.

Here are some reflection questions you may want to consider 

  1. What went well during this experiment? Did we reach our goals?
  2. Did you or anybody on the team encounter any issues during the experiment? If so, what were they?
  3. Were the goals of the experiment clear? Were they achievable and realistic?
  4. Based on the above answers what have you learned? 
  5. If you were unable to achieve the goal, what changes might you make as you experiment again?

What's Next?

I'll be writing two more articles focused on the most crucial steps from the process above, so check back in, and if you've got questions, don't hesitate to reach out to me here! If you are interested in learning more about Norby and joining you can so via this link.

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