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How do you know when it is time to give up?

In the Q&A after a presentation I did to the Federation of Small Businesses a few weeks ago, someone asked me: if I’ve tried a new strategy and it doesn’t seem to be working yet, how do I know when to stick with it and when to give up?

It’s a great question. We live in a world where too many people want instant results. Sadly, I think many businesses give up on great strategies too early. Yet others persist for too long with strategies which are clearly not working.

So here is my answer.

First of all, I must assume that the strategy you are applying is based on a sound analysis, and that that sound analysis resulted in a good strategic hypothesis.

(See also:

for more tips on this.)

By ‘strategic hypothesis’ I mean something along the lines of: if we do A, B and C, we will get X, Y and Z.

If your strategy isn’t based on something like that, then you have a different problem. I won’t be addressing that here.

But what if you’ve done that? What if you're doing A, B and C, but you’re not getting X, Y and Z? What do you do?

The first thing to do is go back and check your analysis and logic.

  • Are you still convinced by it?
  • Did you miss something?
  • Has something changed?
The world changes. And so do we. We learn. We develop new understandings of ourselves, our businesses and our environment. And so our strategies should remain under constant review and subject to change if required.

If that doesn’t shed any light, then the next step is to actively try to disprove your strategic hypothesis.

  • Can you find someone who thinks you’re wrong? Ask them to try and convince you.
  • Think about what evidence you'd need to convince yourself you were wrong. Then set out to find that evidence.

We’re natural optimists. And we’re very good and finding and interpreting data that confirms what we already believe (or just hope) to be true. By flipping things around and trying to disconfirm things, we build a much deeper understanding.

Then, if your logic still holds up, and if you’re unable to disprove your hypothesis, you should persist with your strategy a while longer. If not, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and try again.

Please feel free to get in touch if you need any help with any of the above in your business.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

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