I recently posted about some trials and travails I was having, trying to get a piece of technology to work, commenting that it had taken 16 consecutive failures with a particular piece of technology, and on the 17th I got it to work. A friend commented, citing the famous Albert Einstein quote, that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

While technically correct in terms of the quote, my friend was mistaken: I was not doing the same thing over and over again. This is one of the critical mistakes we make as marketers, confusing process with outcome. Einstein’s quote specifically applies to process. Doing the same process and expecting a different outcome is indeed insanity.

The reason I disagreed was that each attempt to get a technology to work was a different process, a different recipe. I got 16 of the same outcomes, but I used a different process in each case. This is less insanity and more persistence.

Let’s talk a bit about processes and outcomes.

Matrix of Change by @cspenn

Doing the same thing to get the same result is reliability. If the thing you’re doing works, then stability is what you want. Obviously, if the outcome is not what you want, then you indeed are insane if you have a stable, reliable process but want something different to happen.

Doing the same thing to get different results is instability. It’s unreliability, and it’s problematic. If I’m using a piece of technology or even doing a simple activity and I get different results, then the process is inherently unstable and I wouldn’t want to rely on it for anything critical. If I logged into Google Analytics and one day it decided to show me a video game instead of web analytics, that would be a serious problem.

Doing different things to get the same outcome is diversity. This is a wonderful thing for a marketer to aspire to, because it gives you multiple avenues to reach a solution. Having lots of different ways to generate leads, for example, makes you a powerful marketer compared to a “one-trick pony” that has only a limited number of conditions under which they can succeed.

Doing different things to get different outcomes is change. This is what you have to aim for the moment that a process fails to generate the outcome you want. If you’re not getting what you want, you have to change the process. Of course, if you’re not aiming for change, then doing different processes to get different outcomes is counterproductive.

Knowing what you’re doing and what outcome you’re seeking – reliability, diversity, or change (rarely do people want unpredictable instability) – is essential for guiding your efforts and focus.

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