April 18, 2011

The *Shipping* News 4: Thoughts on Seth Godin’s Poke the Box – The Privilege of a Strong Foundation

The privilege of a strong foundation is that it allows you to fail.



I left that space there intentionally. Because I want us (and most especially me) to stop and reflect on it. We spend a lot of time talking about getting to success. But experience is most often what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted (money, wealth, fame, a great marketing campaign, social media praise, achieving your ROI target). Experience is what you learned. More often than not, we learn more from our failures because we endlessly deconstruct them. But I’ll let Liz tell you the rest.


When reading Seth Godin’s blog posts and Poke the Box, it is easy to read between the lines and see that Mr. Godin does not support failure through lack of knowledge, preparation or thoroughness. When I read between the lines, the value I gain is to create a solid foundation and from there, failure is ok.

Let’s first take a look at failing from a foundation and then look at no foundation at all.


In Poke the Box post #2, Covalent’s own CTO, Stanton Willins wrote about his passion for snowboarding, charting new maps and being ok with failing if the course he set did not work out. However, when I read between the lines, I can’t imagine that after day one of boarding, that Stanton took a chair lift to the black diamond. He built his foundation; he did the work. Stanton first learned how to snowboard, then continued to build his confidence.

One person with a strong foundation can spread it around and share it, with no risk of it running too thin. It’s a remarkably renewable resource. And once it spreads, it’s tremendously sustainable with a little effort. The champion, the shipper doesn’t milk a strategy, a campaign, an approach. He contributes to its growth, builds its foundation. He asks “why/how/when will this be better?”


Look instead at any organization that has lost its foundation – through time, attrition or even continued success. Operational processes, lead management and campaign strategies languish when they are not continuously shipped. The foundation erodes. Without a strong foundation – every effort MUST succeed because the organization lacks structural support for embracing risk – for learning. Such an organization also fears that risk-taking will cause them to fall through the cracks. That fear will prevent them from being willing to fail for the sake of a new great idea.
So, think about how your foundation will allow you to learn. About what you would do if you didn’t think you would fall through the cracks? What would you ship in your organization TODAY? And then go find a way to do it anyway.

We are sharing what we’ve learned. If you are going to #MIS2011 – The IBM Unica Conference for Marketers in Boston in May – come get a gift copy of Seth Godin’s latest manifesto. He exhorts us to take action. Will you?


Cristene Gonzalez-Wertz

#PoketheBox, #MIS2011, @covalent_mrktng, @hermione1, @swillins