Contingency planning isn’t crying wolf
In a 1996 SNL skit, comedian Dana Carvey impersonated a news anchor pre-recording announcements of things that might happen while he was on an extended vacation. The scenarios got more and more ridiculous. What if a former U.S. President were mauled by wolves? Well, as the off-camera producer pointed out, it happened to President Taft. That’s why we plan for contingencies.
Astronauts do a similar type of preparation before space travel. Rather than filming sober announcements for newscasts, the astronauts perform simulated scenarios of everything that could possibly go wrong in space. The goal is to build muscle memory so that when something unanticipated goes wrong – and it will – the astronauts can keep their stress in check and work on solutions.
As former NASA rocket scientist Ozan Varol says, “Astronauts maintain their calm not because they have superhuman nerves. It’s because they have mastered the art of using knowledge to reduce uncertainty.”
Lest you think that marketing “isn’t rocket science,” Varol goes on to explain how the same principles of problem solving used (or catastrophically misused) in the space program also drive performance in more pedestrian forms of work and life.
Does your team have the knowledge to handle unexpected pivots? After all, even the most comprehensive plans can be impacted by unforeseen circumstances, random events, or the speed of change in today’s economy.
Modern problem-solving demands trustworthy insights. That’s why when we talk about the importance of getting your GA4 instance going by mid-July to preserve year-over-year data, we aren’t just crying wolf.
Whether you’re building your marketing program slowly or aiming for the stars, rocket scientists, U.S. Presidents, and comedians agree that the key to finding solutions in the midst of uncertainty is the ability to find and apply knowledge in any contingency.
Get smart: In his book Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life, Ozan Varol writes about lessons he learned working on NASA’s Mars program and how we can change our thinking to make better decisions in any job or circumstance. It’s a pretty fascinating look at the space program, and also fairly useful as a self-help/business read. And whether or not you’re into summer reading, take a few minutes between calls to watch the Dana Carvey news anchor sketch. It’s a classic.