As the business planning process gets started for next year, it is worth considering why the strategies and tactics remain the same year after year even when brands are suffering troubling results. Product launches continue to be dismal and yet the marketing plans look the same across the industry. Why is that? Why do companies even continue to spend shareholder resources on brands that have no chance to succeed either because they bring no value to the market or because they can’t price them in a way that will give them access to more than a handful of patients? The problem is we don’t know when and how to quit doing the same thing! Oh we add new initiatives and water down the landscape, but seldom give up on things. We need to learn to move on!
Take a quick look at this piece from The Atlantic that touches on just this issue. I love their subtitle about the psychology of lost causes. The article talks about the fallacy of sunk costs and not being able to abandon a project or an idea just because you have spent so much on it already. The psychological factors seem to go much deeper. We don’t give up because we don’t want to admit we were wrong. We don’t give up because we have no solid alternatives. We are worried about looking bad or looking like we are quitters. Perhaps the most relevant point is that we are afraid of the future unknown and would rather keep pushing against known culprits than face an uncertain future. It seems much safer to continue doing something that is marginally working than to abandon it and go after a completely new endeavor.
This issue is all around us. How many people stay in relationships that are either physically or mentally abusive? People stay in homes and neighborhoods they don’t like because it is easier than moving. Our educational system is broken and yet every idea for change faces stiff resistance. We have a system for voting that looks like it did around WWII and yet we fight going to a computerized system even though we pay all our bills and manage our finances that way. We line up for hours at the Post Office or the Motor Vehicles Department, complain and yet nothing changes. We complain about work-life balance as we continue to pile up more time at work and read emails all night long. The article makes a lot of sense, right?
The question is what are we going to do about it? Perhaps the most significant advice in the article has to do with concentrating on all the positives that could happen with moving on or making the change. Understand there could be negatives, but don’t let them overwhelm the positives. Recognize in business that those who try new things and who are never satisfied with average performance are viewed as leaders and change agents. They are rewarded with new jobs and greater responsibility, especially if they make these moves in a deliberate well-planned manner. Those that don’t are viewed as just average performers. Even failure, if done the right way, is respected in business.
In these times of tremendous uncertainty in healthcare and when so many things do not seem to be working, moving on from strategies and tactics from yesteryear just makes so much sense. There is very little to lose, right? The concern really seems to be with not wanting to stand out during times when job cuts are happening all over. Think about what looks better, to stubbornly continue to do things the old way or to constantly be exploring for better ways. In all reality, I think the safer way to go is to be among those moving on rather than clinging to the old.