When Should You Revise Your Strategy?

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.”

Still a great adage, but I think it should be updated:

The first time I learned this lesson (or can remembering it sticking) was during my middle school’s “Communication Festival”. Each of us chose an event – Formal Speech, Product Pitch, etc. – and I chose Debate. While I can’t remember the topic of the debate, I do recall that it involved lots of research, writing, and coordinating with my partner. I loved it (yep, a nerd then and now) and I just knew we had it in the bag.

And we did – we won every single debate – except for one. It was late in the afternoon and, even though we were up against two of the smartest people in our grade, we were feeling confident. As we solidified our case through our secret weapon newspaper article, our fellow debaters caught a key point in the text we had overlooked.

“Yes, on that point they are correct. But had they read the article further…”

We lost. Utter devastation. We didn’t win first place that day (they did) but we did win our next debate. Low and behold, our final competitors used our same secret weapon newspaper article. However, through our recent loss, we had acquired the power to counter them and win.

The purpose of this tale is to illustrate an important point: Sometimes it takes a jarring loss to produce a significant win.

There are many examples in the corporate world of businesses suffering some down right embarrassing mishaps (Crystal Pepsi, anyone?). For example, in 2008, Domino’s stock hit an all-time low and was followed in 2009 by a damning, viral YouTube video of two staff members mishandling pizzas. Instead of stopping at the token CEO public apology, Domino’s took that major backlash and basically reinvented themselves. They found a gap – customer service and poor quality – and built a lasting campaign around their daily efforts to champion those areas.

It’s easy to get jaded, and just plain ticked off, when you lose. It’s OK to sulk for a bit – we’re human, after all – but life goes on (quickly). The pivotal next step is to review your failure, define your weakness, and revise your strategy.

Where did you fall short? How you can become stronger? Do you need to reassess your goals? What is your competitor doing that is not currently part of your game plan?

Our personal and professional lives will always be laced with failures, and we should always try again. But how we try again might be the difference between another loss and a win.

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