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Experiment, Adapt, and Innovate: 3 Rules for Surviving and Thriving in a Time of Crisis

Experiment, Adapt, and Innovate: 3 Rules for Surviving and Thriving in a Time of Crisis

The events of 2020 (so far) have left an indelible mark on all aspects of society. No matter your industry or vocation, the effects of COVID-19 on the international economy have made this a challenging time to do business, and it doesn’t look like conditions are going to greatly improve any time soon. In a time when change is so unprecedented and unpredictable, our tried and true survival tactics aren’t necessarily the best go-to for riding the wave back to the tranquil shores of normality.

So, what’s a brand to do when all the old tricks and standard answers are no longer doing the trick? Well, when the world becomes unpredictable, you have to get unpredictable right back. As John F. Kennedy pointed out, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis. ‘ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.”

To quote Andrew Wommack, “Leaders flourish in a time of crisis.” 

So here’s a look at some rules, tactics, strategies, schemes, approaches, game plans, and opportunities for not only surviving, but thriving in this time of undeniable crisis.

Experimentation

Experimentation has been the key factor in the success of Western capitalism.” – Nathan Rosenberg

Even in the best of times, it’s never a good idea to become complacent in our ways and business strategies or offerings. In business, as in life, it’s important to keep moving forward. 

For every brilliant business innovation celebrated in the annals of history, there are many more unremembered failures littering the side of the road. Thomas Edison said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He also said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

If Edison is to be believed, failure is nothing but a large pile of rocks hiding the shining gold nugget of success. What if, instead of avoiding the rocks, we instead searched relentlessly for success? 

When you know success is waiting underneath, it doesn’t seem so worthless to dig through that pile of failure.

Of course, even when we embrace the value of failure, it’s sometimes too easy to think that we know what’s going to succeed. We go all in on that new innovation only to find that perhaps our razor sharp instincts are just a bit duller than we originally thought. In business, we seldom get to play with unlimited resources, and one giant failure can be monumentally costly. 

So, how do we square that risk with the importance of embracing failure? Well, Edison didn’t build a factory and invest in marketing and distribution before he’d developed a functioning light bulb. So try new things. Experiment. Don’t be afraid to fail. But always leave yourself room to fail again. That’s the only way you’ll ever get to success.

Adaptation

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin

When Hollywood was looking for someone to adapt Susan Orleans’ book, “The Orchid Thief,” they were told by multiple screenwriters that the book wasn’t adaptable. There simply wasn’t enough story in the book to fill a movie. Then they gave it to Charlie Kaufman, who said, “Sure. I can do that.”

It wasn’t long before he realized that the others were right. It was impossible. 

So what did he do? Well, first he panicked for a good long while. Then, when he got over that, he sat down and wrote a film about himself trying to write an adaptation of “The Orchid Thief.” He even gave himself a fictional twin brother and gave Orleans a fictional drug addiction. When he turned it in, he was certain his career was over, but the resulting film has been singled out as one of the best of the 2000s.

Adaptation. 

It’s the name of the film, and it’s what Charlie did (in more ways than one). When it became obvious that he couldn’t write a traditional screenplay, he wrote a non-traditional one. It’s a skill that can go a long way toward helping your brand through these thoroughly non-traditional times.

When market conditions and even the ability to stay open can change, depending on a virus and the mandates of a wide variety of government entities, the goal of becoming very good at doing one thing has to give way to a new goal of becoming adept at learning how to do new things when the old skills have suddenly become irrelevant.

Those who are able to read, and then act on, the signals of change are the ones that will survive. These are the brands that can experiment economically, frequently and rapidly in response to the way things are—not the way we’ve come to expect them to be.

Innovate

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” – Abraham Maslow

When you’ve put in the work of reading and adapting to changing conditions, one of the most important benefits is that you will have built yourself a brand new toolbox.

With new tools come the ability to handle new problems or to build previously undreamt-of innovations. Basically, if you adapt effectively, the natural result will often be innovation.

The followers in this new normal will be those who sit back, watch how others adapt, and then adhere to the competition’s playbook. They’re also likely the brands that will soon be just a memory, because if you wait for others to lead through difficult, unprecedented times, your response will likely never be nimble enough to make it through to the finish line.

Innovation requires the courage to step forward into unexplored territory, and yes, it’s risky. But to innovate is to lead.

And it’s the leaders who emerge first from the ravages of the storm, while all others are still frozen in place, waiting for the storm to pass. Yes, it seems that the times are throwing wrenches into our machinery from every conceivable angle, but if you can be the one who masters the skills of innovation, adaptation, and experimentation, you’ll be the brand that figures out how to get those wrenches into the hands of the people who want them.

ABOUT SHAMA HYDER

She is the founder & CEO of Zen Media. She has been named the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Forbes, Businessweek, and Inc have all recognized her as one of the Top 30 under 30 entrepreneurs in the field of marketing. Shama has built a global audience and is known for helping brands succeed in the digital age. She is a bestselling author, an international keynote speaker, and has been named one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Marketing for four years in a row. Learn More

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Daily videos to ignite your momentum

What's your moment? Daily videos to ignite your momentum

Receive daily videos with strategies, best practices, and litmus tests for discovering and igniting your moment.