Commitment or Flexibility


I asked a client last week how committed her business is to the content strategy she’s leading. She laughed and said, “Our management team doesn’t believe in commitment. They’re all about being flexible.”

Joking aside, it’s an interesting question. Are we committed, or are we flexible? Which should we be? Can we be both? Can we be committed to being flexible? Flexibly committed?

We make choices against the two ends of this scale almost daily. Are you committed to that route you take work every day, or are you going to be flexible and listen to Google Maps today when it suggests a more optimal route? What about the company you take that dreaded route to every day – are you committed to that job, or are you flexible enough to consider other opportunities that come your way? How long is your business going to stay committed to your current content strategy before flexing?

There are no right answers. Either extreme can work against you. At one end of the scale, where commitment calcifies into habit, you may miss out on opportunities. At the other end, where flexibility devolves into vacillation, you may not get much done.

At the same time, either end of the scale ­– commitment or flexibility – can be a virtue. Sometimes to succeed we have to stay true to a course that we’ve committed to, maybe even beyond sensibleness. As philosopher William James once said, “Often enough our faith beforehand in an uncertified result is the only thing that makes the result come true.” On the other hand, sometimes to succeed we have to flex off course. As CEO Marc Benioff has said, “You must always be able to predict what’s next and then have the flexibility to evolve.”

How does your company choose whether to stay the course or veer off? It takes an honest look at your strengths, talents, habits, and weaknesses. A company entrenched in commitments may need to consider flexing. A company whose flexibility diminishes productivity may need to lock in on some commitments.

This honest look is especially important for us as content practitioners. Decisions to commit or flex abound for us because we are typically considering things that have never been done for this business asset we call content. We’re always looking into new strategies, new channels, new approaches, and even new business cultures. Insight into making these decisions may come from multiple places: data, gut instinct, a passion, a belief, a philosophy, or a what-the-f toss of the dice. It’s up to us to weigh commitment against flexibility. Over and over. This is the thing that will never be replaced by artificial intelligence or automation. This is our art as business strategists.

Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.