Use Rocket Fuel, Not Seat Belts
5 min. read • Sun Feb 09 2020
By Jay Bousada
This article is both a confession and a warning. Over the last twenty years, Thrillworks went from being daring and doing ground-breaking work, to being cautious and doing mediocre work. In doing so, we let down our clients, even those who were the happiest with our work. Reigniting your digital mojo isn’t easy emotionally or physically. Still, it’s possible; here are a few things we did to bring back ours and a few resources we used to make it happen.
You likely have at least a website or an app. Statistically speaking, your digital channels are dull, safe and uninspired. On top of that, you are as likely to be disappointed in the team that delivered it. You aren’t alone in feeling this way, designing and building mediocre digital is big business for consultancies, agencies and internal teams alike.
“Seat belt digital” is the safe thing that won’t break any moulds, move any needles or ruffle any feathers. But hey, it’s safe, right? Don’t count on it; with 4.3 billion active internet users in 2020, it’s harder than ever to get and keep users’ attention. Today’s users are highly sophisticated and have higher expectations than ever before. Users no longer compare you to your direct competitors; they juxtapose you against the best experiences on the internet funded by highly motivated digital teams.
You might be thinking, “Who wants that? Our site is fine” or “We work hard on our digital properties, and users are fine with them.” And maybe those statements are true, but “fine” doesn’t win gold stars, and effort doesn’t equal accomplishment. These are words we live by. Companies like Apple, Google and Uber that set digital standards don’t play by the rules or settle for fine. Why are you?
Your digital team needs to light the world on fire again. Trust us, we know; twenty years ago, we used to create amazing, rocket-fueled experiences, and then slowly, over time, we got comfortable, put on our seat belts and drove ten under the limit down the information super-highway.
Twenty years into the internet, your digital teams can’t think and act the way they did in the early days. Twenty years ago, rocket-fuel isn’t high-octane enough for today. Seat belts do a great job in keeping you safe, but that mindset kills your chances of becoming legendary. Every new day on the internet brings new opportunities and perils for companies to deliver unique and meaningful work, and it’s your job to keep up with it all.
We made the journey back to awesome, rocket-fueled, daring, no-holds-barred amazing. But it wasn’t easy.
When we self-reflected a few years ago, we found a few key areas where we had lost the edge. Most other companies we meet suffer from the same issues.
After self-reflecting, Thrillworks saw this about itself:
- We were reacting to the market instead of leading it
- We weren’t being daring or bold
- We were allergic to the idea of failure, so we played it safe
- Our digital team didn’t challenge and push for new better solutions
- Our digital strategy was to please everyone, which, in reality, served no one
- A large portion of our team forgot how to add the “thrill” to our work
You can likely identify with some of the points we’ve mentioned; even the most amazing teams can fall into this trap. If you still don’t see yourself, congratulations—or perhaps you need to look closely in the mirror and ask, "Is this really how we are?"
Reigniting the Spark
The spark is the thing from which everything else ignites. You can pour on all the rocket fuel you want, but without the spark, you won’t go anywhere. Everyone needs to be 100% aligned with the vision. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how big the spark is; your fuel isn’t flammable. The spark keeps the fuel burning and propels you forward.
We believe that true challenger brands need courageous, confident and talented partners and teams that care enough to invest in building strong relationships to get to a bold future. However, before you can ignite the world on fire, you need a spark:
- A disciplined and ultra-clear vision
- An experienced leadership team that is aligned and willing to deliver on that vision
- A strong point of view, even if it is not a popular one
Pouring on the Rocket Fuel
Sparks don’t light ablaze alone. Rocket-fueled digital strategy requires an uncommon mindset that only courageous teams made up of interdependent people have.
The key ingredients to rocket fuel:
1) Exceptional team members that are hungry, humble and smart people
2) Teams and partners that thrive on ideals, strategy and vision
3) Permission to be bold, to accept that possibility of failure, and to venture forward regardless
4) Teams that achieve commitment to a goal and hold one another accountable to accomplish that goal
Teams that run on rocket fuel, indeed, try crazy things that don’t always succeed, but anything less will never achieve extraordinary results.
Thrillworks: Exploring a Brave New World
Our goal is to find that rare breed of client who believes playing it safe and getting quantum results are mutually exclusive, pleasing everyone serves no one, and even having an unpopular point of view matters more than agreeing with everyone so that you don’t upset them.
The Thrillworks that lost its way ten years ago is back with a vengeance. Our sucking, safety-bear, seat-belt-on phase is over. Our team has never been more focused, energized, capable, or committed to the goal of being a new kind of agency that helps daring clients accomplish meaningful and memorable things. The best part is that you can do it, too.
We didn’t do it alone; we used six essential resources to drive change:
- Good to Great – Jim Collins
- The 5 dysfunctions of a team – Patric Lencioni
- Turn the Ship Around – L. David Marquette
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Steven R. Covey
- The Goal – Eliyahu M Goldratt, Jeff Cox
- Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice as Much in Half the Time – Jeff Sutherland and J.J. Sutherland
We have come out the other side of this journey fully back to “Thrilling” with some essential stories to tell; rebooting our blog is our first step in helping you gain back your digital thrill too. Unfasten your seat belt, and take off with us!
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