The Superpower of Iteration and How to Slay by Practicing One Kick Ten Thousand Times

There is a chasm between knowing what to do versus how to do it, and another between doing it and iterating multiple times and in varying contexts. This was reaffirmed recently by Joanne Frost on her returning Season 8 of SuperNanny on Lifetime TV. Her superpower of getting toddlers to sit up straight, listen to parents, and act right is reality tv gold for families struggling with their kids sheltering in place indefinitely due to COVID-19.

On the Supernanny show, Joanne Frost, affectionately known as Nanny Jo visits homes across America to help parents solve pain points related to their children. Usually, it’s about the children’s behavioral patterns and their parents’ ability (or inability) to handle emotions by applying disciplinary strategies and tactics.

In a recent episode, an important parallel to business and product development was so clearly demonstrated for me, I had to share it here.

There are two popular disciplinary tactics that parents use, one is the countdown method — this is when a child is misbehaving or given a direction from a parent and they don’t take it after a countdown (usually from five or three to one) then there’s a consequence. The second is the timeout when a child doesn’t do what the parent has requested and the parent removes them from social activity or interaction to have quiet time by themselves to contemplate what they have done wrong. Sounds simple enough, right? In this particular episode, we got to see a parent using these techniques, but with the wrong application and critical missed steps.

This led to the proven technique being completely ineffective, leaving the child confused and even more rebellious, and the parents completely frustrated and tired of dealing with their unruly toddlers. In one scene, we see a 5-year-old defiantly put herself in timeout because she didn’t want to clean up her playroom. During Nanny Jo’s evaluation, she was appalled and it was palpable to watchers.

Bruce Lee — image credit Pinterest

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” — Bruce Lee

This is very similar to what I see with founders and leaders in the software and subscription-based business models. Many people are fully aware of the customer development process, and lean startup methodologies. They are well-read on the popular books, but they have misconceptions on how to properly implement these tactics and are therefore left feeling completely frustrated and confused as to why the strategy that they’ve heard so many gurus and other successful business leaders talk about not really work. This includes things like how to attain product-market-fit, how to reduce churn or how to keep customer retention high with loyal customers who rave about their product and brand experience.

I had this same Nanny Jo reaction not too long ago when someone in a Facebook group of business leaders challenged me by saying that focusing on customer loyalty is a losing game for companies. And that he read books and had this experience that confirmed to him that this well-known and well-documented approach to building your customer base and scaling your company was completely incorrect. I was both appalled and extremely fascinated by this. I’ve spent so many years working to help clients build customer loyalty, increase net promoter scores, and increase customer lifetime value and these are things I know can improve the overall value and growth potential of an organization. In fact, the best business schools and blue-chip brands that I have been associated with, use them without reservation.

When my new Facebook friend and I took the conversation to a private discussion, it became clear that he was not applying the strategy and tactic of customer loyalty appropriately and instead was using customer loyalty as if it were a kind of acquisition tool for new offerings. My experience with applying and iterating these methods across multiple contexts immediately told me exactly why what he was doing doesn’t work! He was actually eroding trust and damaging customer relationships.

These experiences illuminated how just knowing a concept, tool or technique, doesn’t always ensure that you will achieve the desired outcome. And also how important it is for founders to know where they are going to dedicate their 10,000 kicks so they can have an unfair advantage.

Additionally, these experiences made it clear as to why attending popular seminars, reading books, listening to experts on multiple podcasts are great beginning steps to understanding concepts. However, at best these tools can be educational and inspirational, but most commonly they are ineffective in solving a complex problem, and at worst misses in the application can be very damaging to your product and brand.

This why working closely with a consultant or mentor in an area of their expertise is so important to the application and the iteration process involved in growing your business. It is the ultimate shortcut to rapid results. Just like the families on the Supernanny show, you definitely don’t have to spend months and years banging your head against the wall to understand why something that is proven to work is not working for you, even if you’ve given it multiple attempts.

You can call in an expert to observe your behavior, evaluate the cause of your poor results, challenge you on why you’re making certain decisions by looking at both your strategy and execution technique, and most importantly help you with proper application.

Much like the parents who are helped by Nanny Jo, start to feel about their children, you’ll be left feeling significantly more secure, confident and happy about the trajectory of your business for months and years to come.

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