The Art of Doing

advice for bitersI’ve been looking at a lot of businesses lately and watching with interest as they adapt (or don’t) to today’s business world.

Some are managing the transfer (Coca Cola, Ford, Four Seasons), while others seem to be struggling (BP, Nissan, Nestle). And these are the big boys that should be able to provide the budgets to create a successful strategy – yet as BP, Nissan and Nestle show, that’s not always the case.

So why are companies still struggling to adapt?

Having both worked at and for large corporations, the answer doesn’t always boil down to poor decision-making by the strategy team; it can have more to do with immovability and a “not quite ready yet” mindset from the decision-makers at the top.

Which is why more companies need to start learning the Art of Doing.

The Art of Doing

One thing that’s clear with any company (or at least any one that wants to be successful and stay ahead of the game) is the want for change. This could be a change in the way you do business; a change in the people that run things; a change in corporate culture; or a myriad of other compartments.

But there’s a big difference between want and making happen.

Both Ford and Nissan wanted to run a successful social media campaign for their latest products; but only Ford really made it happen. Nissan had great early success, for sure, but early success doesn’t guarantee long-term returns – something the negative reaction to the second half of Nissan’s Cube campaign shows only too well.

So how do you switch from want to do?

  • Make sure your ship is watertight. When you plan something, there are always going to be uncertainties. How you plan for these uncertainties defines your success. Being fluid enough to react to ad-hoc needs is key.
  • Question interventions. The businesses that are making the successful switch from existing to future are doing so because they have teams that believe in what they’re trying to do. Often those in more expensive suits will question your wisdom; make sure you have answers and questions of your own.
  • Finite or infinite. A great plan knows that to achieve and measure success, you have to have timelines and guide points. You need to know where you need to be by a certain time, and if you’re not, do you cut the cord or take one last stab at the target?

Get Motion Sickness

In late 2008, the Big Three motor companies – Ford, General Motors and Chrysler – saw their fortunes dip massively as the U.S. economy took a nosedive. As the recession bit, it looked like all three were seriously in danger of going out of business.

It was only a huge financial bail-out that saw GM and Chrysler survive. But Ford didn’t ask for a bail-out; instead, it got motion sickness.

Believing in the company’s new products and the ability to distance itself from the other two strugglers, Ford’s approach to changing things up inside and outside (the strong use of social media and consumer marketers) saw them enjoy a massive turnaround in fortune.

Make motion sickness happen for you:

  • Ignore the safety harness and take the direction you need to take, no matter how sharp the turn.
  • Use the accelerator more. Slow and steady might win the race but competition won’t always wait for you to come in.
  • Ride the dirt track. Just because the same road has always worked before doesn’t mean it always will. Get off the tarmac and onto the mud if you need to.

Every company wants to do. Only the good ones know the art of doing, though. Where does yours fall?

Creative Commons License photo credit: otherthings

Sign up for free weekly content

Enter your first name and email below to get my free weekly newsletter with the latest posts, recommended reading, content tips and more.

(I respect your privacy and will never spam you)

Blog consulting with Danny Brown

Enjoy this post? Share your thoughts below:


  1. says

    Considering a Ford purchase was no where on my radar before their recent turnaround.

    It’s there now. Why?

    Because they got the message and took action. They saw the emerging market trends and jumped on board. Ford kept it’s ear to the ground and it’s eyes on the horizon and developed a better product and got the message out there through new media.

    I’d buy one just because I like and trust them.

    Bet a bunch of other “online”, “plugged in”, “geeks” would as well.
    .-= Frank Dickinson´s most recent blog post …Coffee Conversations: What Are You Passionate About? =-.

  2. says

    Great post again Danny,

    I followed the story on Ford and Four Seasons and I didn’t really know about the others. Thank you for the links.

    Besides the art of doing I think companies should have the “art of listening” as well.

    They could have avoided some of the problems if they had the “art of listening”.

    Love the post.

    .-= Aaron´s most recent blog post …4 Mistakes New Twitter Users Make =-.

  3. says

    Hi Danny,

    There are some important points in here. And like Aaron said, the art of listening is equally important.

    I hear a lot of talk about developing workplaces and innovation, but these get boiled down to a pulpy checklist of superficial action items that don’t really accomplish anything because they lack organizational buy-in.

    This is the difference between the Ford and Nissan approaches to their social media campaigns.

    Ford “did it” and made the right partners to learn how to integrate social media into their ongoing strategy. Turning down the bail-outs amplified their credibility.

    Nissan and their partners made a checklist. It included a contest. They checked a box. They apparently didn’t talk to car buyers, dealerships, etc.
    .-= Rick´s most recent blog post …What’s with the App(le) Web? =-.

    • says

      GM seem to be in the same boat at the minute, Rick. They gave notice to a bunch of dealers that they’d be closing them down, despite some solid advice from dealers how to to things around. Now that the upswing has come in, these same dealers are still getting closed (even though some are incredibly profitable).

      Checklists are (like you say) often bull.

  4. euromix says

    the capacity to move depends a lot of the power structure in the company.
    if the top cannot make a decision and block the internal resources to move on, then start the training to stay motionless. when the top finnally decide to move, no one knows anymore how to do it.

  5. says

    Having the team believe it is key, as that will create an environment of ‘no fear’ and allow the creative juices to flow. It’s when teams start to hesitate that all is lost, or at least takes twice as long as it should.
    .-= Global Patriot´s most recent blog post …BP Oil Spill Quandary =-.

  6. says

    This is such a big topic – so many factors influence and infuse one’s “Doing”. As Aaron and Rick noted above, Listening is fundamental. Seek first to understand – then to be understood.

    Two others struck me as I read your post ~ for I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to Social Media and how aspects are feeling a little stale while others show promise for growth.

    You mentioned ‘want’ as a motivating factor. I feel it must actually be one step deeper than want to push change … sometimes you have to really NEED it. Like, you’ve got nothing left to lose so all options become viable alternatives and worth focussed effort. It’s hard to ignore a safety harness that is there in place for you. I think sometimes the safety itself regulates the effort put forth … and the results that follow are in line with the effort given.

    I also feel that Imagination matters. If you can’t Imagine it, if you can’t see a Vision that the proposed change can bring about ~ then you are less likely to commit to it. Many can’t believe in what they can’t see – “I have to see it to believe it.”

    Those who can ‘believe it THEN see it’ are far more likely to take the real risks that lead to change.

    I hope this is related – but on a personal level, as more and more people buy into the opportunities Social Media represents ~ the need to come forward in a different way is now upon us.

    While online presence, relationship building with customers via blogging, FB and Twitter, etc. were once a differentiating factor – it is becoming less and less so.

    I guess I’m sitting now in the question, “How can I take this to the next level for the benefit of all?”

    Thanks Danny.
    .-= Sally G.´s most recent blog post …Stay in the light, keep your target in sight =-.

    • says

      Hey there Sally,

      I’d agree, to a degree (is that an oxymoron?). :)

      Need often overweighs want when it comes to making decisions. Like you say, it takes away the indecision because you really have no other roll of the dice.

      Yet at the same time, if you wait until you need something, it can often be too late to make the difference that acting on want can make.

      It’s a fine line, for sure.

  7. says

    Great Post Danny, I find it very interesting.

    I think this Wanting vs Doing has a lot too do with Corporate Structure/Decision Making Protocol.

    The problem is that it takes too many people to approve a course of action and makes the company immobile. On one hand we are seeing many smaller companies flourish with changes in business and other large companies are struggling. I find it incredibly impressibe when large companies like coke, fs, and ford can adjust quickly.

    What are your thoughts about this?

    • says

      Red tape is the safety net of those that don’t want change because it’ll show them up for being in a job that isn’t as important as they think.

      Seth Godin describes it well in his book Tribes, when he talks about Heretics at companies.

      Coke, Ford and others like them have heretics and let them speak. Others – well, in medieval times they burnt heretics at the stake. Seems nothing too much has changed…

  8. says

    What kills me is when companies say they want to “embrace” social media but aren’t willing to make ANY sacrifices, even if it’s the tiniest thing (like linking to a social profile from their home page). You can’t expect to be able to hire an “expert” and let them get to work, without changing anything else.

    Also, hadn’t heard anything about that Nissan piece in Canada (typical American, huh?), so thanks for linking us!

    Cheers, Danny!
    .-= Jackie Adkins´s most recent blog post …10 More Reasons to Delete Your Facebook Account =-.

    • says

      That’s been some of the biggest stumbling blocks to change in this space (and even away from social), Jackie.

      I’ve known companies where new ideas have been suggested and the final decision-maker has still gone on their own path, even though that’s the path that hasn’t been working. Go figure….

      Yes, you need to get out more 😉

  9. says

    Thanks Danny, This has to be one the oldest issues in the world of marketing and business in general: The guys who talk a big game and do nothing about it. At some point action has to happen, or the results will always remain the same!

  10. says

    Hey Danny,

    Yet another crisp, concise and fair analysis – one of your strongest attributes! You mention the companies that are not quite ready as well as securing an airtight strategy. Those two issues make strange bedfellows and often the ‘not quite yet’ camp wins out.

    I too have worked with/for large corporations and I can assure you that fear does not reside with the “big boys” only. SMBs are trying their best to figure this all out, I guess their mistakes may simply not be as spectacular on a world stage.

    To mix metaphors, the imperative ingredients are experimentation, customization and correction. Take a swing or put down the bat.

    Some companies fear they will fowl off too many and lose the game before getting out of the batter’s box. While others think that one hard swing will win it all which too is flawed strategy.

    The never ending struggle between patience and taking chances remains.

    • says

      Those three metaphors you use are probably the ones that will see either companies succeed or fail, Kneale.

      Especially the “correction” part. Too many will experiment and even customize; but then simply walk away when it doesn’t work, as opposed to correct and move again. If we can get them past that part, then we’re talking.

      Cheers for the thoughts, mate.

  11. Dorina says

    Hello everybody,

    I work in a media agency (in Romania) and from my experience I think that a lot of companies, the managers don’t have a global vision about economy, how it works. Clients are cutting media budget, instead of invest less money now than in 2008, for the same audience. Social media is also an investment.

    Sometimes the mk decisions are made intl but who take them live in a market totally different than in other country. The geographical shift of power is an important aspect in this times.

    In many countries the companies don’t have an “education” of how thing work, and if the decision person doesn’t know the market, the global trends, the employers are also confused.

    The consumer involvement is a must. Responding is not participating.

    A lot of companies resort to promotions, but there are not goog on long termns.