Monday, September 18, 2017

Risky Business: Reflections on Digital Summit Detroit 2017


Sometimes the biggest risk is taking no risk at all. In fact, I might not be writing this post at all if Eckert and Mauchly didn’t believe the last ton of their 50-ton machine would turn ENIAC into the first fully functional digital computer. Or if The Woz hadn’t dreamt the impossible and pioneered the personal computing revolution, before Jobs took all the credit. Or if Al Gore hadn’t gone out on a limb and invented the Internet.

If there’s one takeaway from this year’s Digital Summit Detroit, it’s that risk drives our business.

“Anything that is successful is a series of mistakes.” — Billie Armstrong

With risk, a certain amount of failure must be forgiven. Our industry is digital. And being digital means we can quickly learn from and overcome our mistakes. What’s most important is that we push ourselves and our clients and try new things.

“Are you placing enough interesting, freakish, long shot, weirdo bets?” — Tom Peters

OK, I know what you’re thinking… “my clients are risk averse” or “it’s too difficult to pitch something outrageous without looking like a lunatic.” I get it. I’ve been there. Here are some steps we can take:

  1. Come to an agreement on risk tolerance with your internal teams and your clients
  2. Determine what risks makes sense
  3. Discuss why the market is ripe for taking a chance
  4. Outline the ROI and knowledge your client would gain by taking this risk
  5. Determine how much time and money your client is willing to spend to experiment
  6. Define what next steps you will take if your efforts succeed or…take a breath...don't
  7. Go in with a plan and walk away with some magic

“Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” — Goethe

Of course, since we are both visionaries and realists, we can’t throw all caution to the wind. We’ll make sure we’re honest about our own abilities and ready to take criticism, hiring and assigning the right people for the job, providing each other with the necessary information to make the experiment a success, supporting each other for being bold, and employing radical transparency to learn from our failures.

“You must have persistence of vision. Don’t be afraid to do things other people think are crazy.” — Morgan Spurlock, filmmaker and Digital Summit Detroit Keynote Speaker

We’re lucky to be in a business where taking chances is an expectation. We are dreamers, inventors, experimenters and doers. We get paid to be bold. And, if we don't take risks, the industry ignores us, or worse, the industry notices.

Sandy Lipscomb is an Experience Director at Rightpoint. Follow Sandy on Twitter and LinkedIn.