What to Do When You’ve Tried Everything

 In Strategic Agility

When someone says to me, “We’ve tried everything,” my first impulse is to test the validity of that statement, because experience has proven it is almost never true.

A more accurate version of such an exclamation might be, “We have tried everything we can think of that fits with our own experience, biases, beliefs, personality, habits and preconceptions.

Sometimes, the end of the road is really the end of the road. Maybe your latest idea truly is a dud. But more often, reality is more nuanced than that. So, in the spirit of helping tenacity and staying power to triumph in the long run, here are some other things you might try:

Do the opposite—in the TV series, Seinfeld, the character George Costanza eventually grows tired of constantly failing, and has this exchange with Jerry Seinfeld…

Jerry Seinfeld: If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

George Costanza: Yes, I will do the opposite. I used to sit here and do nothing, and regret it for the rest of the day, so now I will do the opposite, and I will do something!

On TV, the strategy worked. In true life, when people say they have tried everything, in reality they still haven’t tried nearly anything that another person or company would do. So, you might consider what a person who is the opposite of you might try.

Did you really try it? In many cases, “we’ve already tried that” means we sort of, kind of tried that in a very loose and casual manner. Maybe you had an intern make a few outbound phone calls. Perhaps you asked five of your most satisfied customers what they thought. But you didn’t try it in a regimented and repeatable manner.

Try only things that can be expanded if successful —When pursuing new ventures, people tend to “test” many initiatives that could never be viable on a large scale, even if the test is successful. For example, the test proves that a certain customer segment loves your new product, but the segment is so tiny, it cannot be profitably served. It pays to be highly disciplined in your tests, and only try initiatives you would know how to duplicate on a larger scale.

Connect success to something else—It can be extraordinarily challenging to sell a standalone product or service, largely because it costs too much to acquire a new customer. But if you can create a complementary offer, finding other things to sell your new customers, then you can redefine what success means.

To cite a personal example, I’ve written two books. Unlike, say, an aspiring novelist, my definition of success isn’t that I support myself by being a writer. Each book exposes my ideas and experience to numerous leaders, and a percentage of those leaders hire me as a consultant. Success comes from attracting great consulting clients, rather making money on book sales.

If you need help overcoming what might seem like an unsolvable problem, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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