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I was initially skeptical of this thinking because it didn’t fit my experience. At my car insurance company, we invest heavily in goal-setting and measurement. Our focus on output keeps our attention on the right things at the right times, and I strongly believe our bullheaded dedication to achieving goals has been a large part of our early success.
But after considering Robbins’s concept, I changed my mind. He isn’t saying we shouldn’t care about achieving goals. Instead, he’s clarifying the reason to set goals in the first place. He suggests, since the purpose of a goal is bigger than getting to the finish line, think hard about how to set the right kind of goals — goals that will stretch your abilities, strengthen your teams and reap dividends far into the future.
From my perspective, this line of thinking is spot-on. My company’s identity and culture have been completely formed by the “unreasonable” goals we set in the beginning. We were already leveraging Robbins’s insight — albeit, inadvertently — to produce great results. And I saw how it might be possible to use his mentality when setting goals to more consciously foster team growth and achieve even more.
Below are the two principles of “unreasonable goal-setting” that have made our company what it is. I believe these principles, when applied intentionally and courageously, can impact the trajectory of your business, too.
Set goals using unconventional thinking.
A goal that flies in the face of conventional wisdom is often a goal with the it factor to bring a team together.
Since the first days of my company, our guiding principle has been to challenge all assumptions. When you’re in an industry as old and entrenched as insurance, there are plenty of assumptions to explore. The biggest paradigm we kept coming back to is that to find and serve customers, insurance companies should engage more — more billboards, phone calls, TV commercials, etc. The more communication with customers and potential leads, the better your brand recognition. And the better your brand recognition, the better your acquisition efforts and retention rates will be (at least, that was conventional insurance thinking).
But after brainstorming and listening to customers, we learned the opposite was true: People didn’t want to have a daily relationship with their insurance company. They wanted something of quality that was reliable, not a lifestyle experience. As a result of this realization, we came up with the goal that launched our company: Build a people-friendly and cost-effective insurance experience.
Setting that goal was pivotal. Instead of brainstorming ways to provide a splashier, flashy branded product, we explored ideas in the opposite direction. Unconventional thinking isn’t magic; it’s a set of tactics that, when intentionally and thoughtfully executed, can provoke incredible ideas. Here are some of the strategies to get started:
• Start with first principles. What is the foundational problem you’re trying to solve? The temptation to put band-aids on surface issues will be strong. Don’t give in. Have the courage to face the core issue.
• Don’t look at what your industry is doing poorly. Look at what other industries do well. Learn from top players in unrelated industries. Which innovations have been game-changers for them? Can you adapt those solutions to fix your problem?
• Revisit and challenge your assumptions at every step. Challenging paradigms at the beginning isn’t enough. It’s too easy to get complacent and revert to old ways of thinking.
Set goals that encourage you to be a little unreasonable.
Nothing unlocks the creativity of a team like giving them an impossible task.
In our case, we challenged ourselves to build an entirely new insurance platform in less than a year (a goal that bordered on the absurd). Not only would we be building a complex and completely new tech stack on the fly, but our time constraints meant that lengthy deliberations and multiple prototypes couldn’t happen. As such, it was vital to think clearly, apply decision frameworks and communicate with incredible precision. If a team member saw a fatal flaw in a process, they needed to speak up. We had to generate new ideas quickly and kill bad ideas fast.
The team responded. To put it simply: We figured out efficient engineering and product solutions because we didn’t have a choice. And, in less than eight months, we launched our insurance company. Far more important than achieving our goal, though, was the way our team responded to the challenge. To this day, we move fast, iterate efficiently and talk openly—all skills we forged during the push toward product launch.
While setting an unreasonable goal has the power to forge amazing teams, there are risks. How do you strike a balance between stretching your team and keeping everyone sane and motivated? Here’s what I recommend:
• First, eat the elephant one bite at a time. Every unreasonable goal is comprised of a hundred reasonable goals. Once you’ve landed on an audacious goal, break it into smaller steps achievable each hour, day or week to get there.
• Second, incorporate failure into the process. If your team is mentally prepared to make a few bad bets along the way, everyone will be prepared to course correct and go on to achieve your ultimate goal.
It’s important to recognize that when setting unreasonable goals, you’re going to fail often. That’s OK. Trying to accomplish the impossible, and then failing, learning and trying again, can be a tremendous growth engine for you, your team, and your company — growth you simply don’t see when you set a safe goal. When your team attempts an impossible task, you embrace the power of being unreasonable — the kind of unreasonable that allows you to look conventionality in the face and, as a team, say, “Not this time.”
And that’s the kind of unreasonable that can help build something amazing.
June 6, 2019 at 08:03AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs