Luck in marketing, business and life . . . the mysterious success ingredient

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1926 ad
A 1926 ad showing how marketers have sometimes sold “luck” (Wikipedia)

I know that successful people, gurus and experts say “you make your own luck” and perhaps there was some of that happening in the past two weeks. I’ve also noticed my good fortune (or uncanny ability) to mobilize resources, both internally and externally, during a crisis. Maybe this adrenaline rush correlates with my original career choice to be a journalist/foreign correspondent. But still . . . probability theory and success odds surely factor into things, and when I rationally looked at these qualities 10 days ago, I couldn’t see much luck in the current picture, and what seemed like a miracle would be needed to solve the problems.

(I won’t go into specifics here — this story is too close to real-life for details sharing just yet — but the people who have been experiencing it with me know the story quite well.)

I followed this approach:

Reality check

I double checked the numbers, and the numbers again. They were gloomy. In fact, they turned out to be even worse than I had projected when, as we started turning things around, it seemed the situation wasn’t improving as fast as it should, and that was rapid. Then I realized there had been a miscalculation and indeed we had a deeper hole from which we needed to dig even harder.

Information gathering and worst-case analysis

Now I urgently gathered some information to plan for the worst-case possibility (allowing for reasonable probability — a meteor might strike earth, but I don’t really need t plan for that situation.) This provided the semblance of a ‘what if’ plan and the beginnings of a comfort zone. I also explored some strategies to minimize harm and allow for post-crisis survival, even if things went totally wrong.

Resource mobilization

This proved to be the most difficult and challenging (and in some ways risky) point. While we had a group discussion where I outlined the problems in general, I now needed to make one-on-one calls to everyone involved, establishing my limits, and inviting a special level of co-operation and support, explaining the consequences if it wasn’t forthcoming. This is a stressful and risky thing to do, but the numbers were staring me in the face.

Implementation with energy-drive

We started implementing the turn-around, discovering surprising solutions and sometimes unexpected additional problems. I knew about three days later that we had dodged the bullet, but I didn’t know that we were moving along the luck curve so far and so fast that some of the less-severe backup contingencies might not also be necessary.

Stabilization and securing the gains

This is where I’ve been less-than-successful in the past. Good luck has a cost, complacency. If things always turn out well in the end, there is a tendency to let the guard down and go back to old ways. We can’t do that. We need to carry on with special measures to restore health and ensure that conditions continue to improve.

As you read this, you might think that I am suggesting I applied some special skills and practical crisis management strategies, but you shouldn’t read that much into the situation. I’m a firm believer in calculated risk. This means, I would never play the lottery (unless someone gives me a free ticket), though if the business opportunity arose to invest in a start-up casino, I might take it. Or, as another example, I might elect to go to Africa and live through a civil war as a journalist, but you wouldn’t find me anywhere near the bush, with live ammunition and the enemy lurking behind the rocks nearby.

However, there are times when luck seems to run out; when the probability numbers just won’t add up for anything but doom and gloom, and these were the numbers and circumstances I observed a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully, my luck turned. Life is good.

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