Aimee Muirhead, director of client partnerships here at Narrative, is an avid reader and shares some insights below into her literary picks, many of which have sparked personal growth and a real change in mindset.
In 2019, I set myself the challenge to read 25 books. By the end of the year, I’d reached 17 completed books – a mixture of non-fiction and fiction books, ranging from Nine Perfect Strangers (Liane Moriarty) and First Man In (Ant Middleton), to Blink (Malcolm Gladwell) and Good Strategy/Bad Strategy (Richard Rumelt).
One of my favourites has been Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed, which I listened to on long car journeys this autumn. In this book, the award-winning journalist explains how learning from mistakes is the most powerful method of learning known to mankind. It consists of a range of gripping case studies with both happy and sad endings, which emphasise the power of building a culture within a business, organisation, or even society itself, which faces up to mistakes and interrogates errors. Only then can we learn and build new strategies for success.
I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone who hasn’t read it, as I strongly recommend you read it for yourselves, but there was one tool in the book which has changed the way I think about process, reducing errors, and ultimately success.
Yes, you probably think you already know quite a lot about making lists (especially if you work in marketing), but hear me out.
Last century when testing a new fighter jet for the military, a very experienced pilot forgot to switch a lever at a crucial moment during take-off and the plane crashed and the pilot died. It was so hard for those involved to believe that the pilot would forget such a crucial task when he had done it hundreds of times over the years. The same thing was happening in hospitals all over the world: experienced doctors making rooky errors or forgetting simple aspects of a process which then caused potentially deadly situations.
Checklists were introduced in both professions, outlining steps to be taken, in order, to ensure safety and success. For example, a checklist for infection control. Or take-off. The error rates dramatically reduced – deaths reduced in hospitals – and every single person who trained subsequently learnt from the errors of the past to ensure they didn’t make the same mistakes (or had to rewrite the checklist each new generation/recruit).
Having a mindset of learning from mistakes is crucial in marketing. When launching a new product or penetrating new markets, you won’t always know straightaway what works. You will need to try, test, analyse and try again. Test the channels, the creative, the messaging – whatever you can – and if it doesn’t work, we need to be honest and record it.
This learning needs to stay in the business and be shared out so that the same ‘mistakes’ are not made again. You could even share it with peers in your industry or the students and trainees who could be standing in your shoes one day. Make a checklist for setting up a remarketing campaign, or a checklist for running an A/B test on Facebook, or a checklist for running media opps, or crisis comms or events. Then if something doesn’t work, go back and iterate the checklist.
I think it was Oprah (or Master Oogway from the Kung Fu Panda films) who said “in life there are no mistakes, only lessons.” But don’t let that put you off. Start with a checklist for what to do when someone makes a mistake in your team, and go from there.
Wish me luck for 2020, during which I aim to devour another 20 books!
This post was created on 9th January 2020