You Are Only as Good as Your Last (project, meeting, shot, deal, call, etc.)
Originally posted on the JESS3 Blog.
We have a mantra at JESS3 that keeps us working hard and keeps us focused on bigger, faster, stronger. Resting on our laurels is not what we do; striving for constant innovation and new levels of awesome, however, is.
Three ‘pages’ from our cookbook to achieve said greatness (after the jump):
1. Establish a pervasive, deeply integrated “Labs” or “Incubator” mentality. As you can see from our projects at JESS3.com, there is nearly a 1 :: 1 ratio of client project launches to JESS3 Labs launches (and that’s just the public stuff, just wait until you see what we’ve been incubating). This is no accident. We take the time to experiment with new ideas, platforms and partnerships just as much as we go after client work. Labs also cannot be ghettoized as a team that meets once a quarter, or rest on the shoulders of one person. It needs to be a company wide, top down, bottom up commitment of time, money and head count. And, in the lab, you need to be okay with failing and not proving out a hypothesis you hoped would work. It is in the failure and experimentation that stronger concepts emerge. We have at least 10x as many JESS3 Labs projects incubating as we do ones that actually launch, just to give you a sense of the volume needed to get to “the good stuff.” Another way to think about this is best summed up by foursquare’s head of client services, Eric Friedman, last month: Always Be Deploying (of course an homage to the A-B-C = Always Be Closing acronym made famous by Glen Gary, Glen Ross).
2. Approach it from an open cookbook mentality, be ready to share, test and recalibrate. In the same vein as a lab that is constantly experimenting, sharing your thinking, methods and theories are also paramount to making your last (fill in the blank) as amazing as possible. When Jesse and I heard this at the SEED Conference in 2008, it struck a chord with us. The idea of “giving away all of your secrets” in the way that famous chefs do might make the IP watchdogs on your team nervous — but for true entrepreneurs at the top of their game, the idea of giving away, sharing, “open-sourcing” if you will is actually empowering. Think of it like this:
- Part of this exercise says to the world: ‘go ahead and try to execute what I just did in the exact way I did and get the same great results.’ Nowhere is this more apparent than when you go to Canal Street in New York City and try to buy a “knock off” Chanel or Louis Vuitton handbag. It just ain’t the same. The details are off. The quality isn’t there. You can see it, smell it, feel it.
- Another part of this exercise actually helps reinforce just how much of a leader you are, in that if others are interested in learning your methods and replicating your success, like we all are when we buy the Joy of Cooking (we love you Julia!), then you are obviously as good as you say / think you are.
- The final part of this exercise should be humbling: others who experiment with the “recipes” that you’ve put out might in fact improve them and / or execute them better than you. The crowd-sourced feedback loop is a powerful one and the companies and individuals that are set up to cast ideas widely and be ready to tweak them based on input are well positioned to be ready to claim that they are in fact as good as their last project, meeting, shot, deal and call.
3. Get back in the trenches, grind out as many wins as you can muster, be prepared to suffer a few losses, get your hands dirty. Then: Repeat, don’t retire. There is no shortage of overnight experts in the social media space, there are also plenty of social media-related conferences to attend and at which to speak. You could make a whole career out of speaking at them, really. And if you are looking for retired generals ready to call social media audibles from their corner office armchairs — there are plenty of those, too. And, by retired generals, we mean to say people who haven’t fought down in the trenches day in and day out — and we are talking blood and bone under their nails level fought — since the 80s, maybe even the 90s and early 2000s. What there is a shortage of are things like good information designers (especially UX designers) and experienced, not just self ordained, social media strategists. Why is that? Because the barrier to entry when it comes to things like talking, attending and tweeting is much lower than the hard work it takes to become truly great at something (10,000 hours at last count). Aside from working longer days and weeks, we’ve gone after volume and precision at JESS3 to get us all at or above the 10,000 hour mark. We experiment with our own brand and projects, we deploy regularly to test theories, and then we apply the best learnings to client projects. Then: We recalibrate, refine and repeat. And, check our fingernails. They are dirty and stained.
What do you do to stay sharp? Fire away here in the comments or @ message me on Twitter (I’m @LeslieBradshaw)… I am looking to — you guessed it — refine this thinking and build it out into something even bigger, faster, stronger.