Inspiration can strike us anywhere and in my case it came hurtling towards me at speeds of 135 km/h.
I am referring to some business and marketing insights gleaned from my experience playing a Virtual Reality cricket game called The Final Overs.
There's not much time for gaming in my life but over the summer break I made a point of stealing a few moments here and there to take some time our with our Oculus Quest VR headset.
I was doing it for fitness (the boxing game we discovered is gruelling) and relaxation (I've always enjoyed backyard cricket so I thought a cricket game would be great for 15 minutes here and there).
What I didn't expect was a complete shift in my understanding of the sports mindset (especially in the context of cricket) and the business insights that flowed.
So let's head to the crease and play through a few overs.
Grit and determination because there is no other choice
There's something about successful sports people that is hard to understand unless you've also played sport at a very competitive level.
It's the mindset of taking stock, resetting, and playing again, whether you've just scored, or been scored against.
I've never truly experienced this.
Although I played a few sports in primary school and early high school, I headed in the arts direction and so missed out on playing competitive adult sports in which everybody carries responsibility for the team and each other to thrive.
As a spectator, although I've enjoyed watching soccer, footy, netball, and cricket, but I've never been able to relax while watching and take things as calmly as many players do. When my team is down, I take it anxiously and personally, and it's unbearable. This might have been made worse by the fact that I barrack for the Crows and Southampton!
But in my moments of being fully immersed in The Final Overs, with a crowd watching, fielders in position, and a series of bowlers who mix things up and try to make every ball a wicket, I've gone through a transformation.
I've learned that the only way to get through a match when early wickets have fallen, is to show grit and determination by moving on from each disaster and preparing to take the next ball on its merit.
To experienced sports people, this will be an underwhelming insight, but I'm sure there are others reading this (maybe you), for whom this experience of knowing that at any moment there might be a rattle of wickets or the cheering of a catch in the outfield heralding your demise and sending you back to the pavillion.
I know it's only a game. But that's the point.
By understanding that it is but a game is liberating because it lets you see that whatever has gone before is now history and all that matters is what is coming next.
In a way, this is a distillation of Milan Kundera's wonderful book title, The Unbearable Lightness Of Being.
Although that book covered life in war time and dictatorships with life considered cheap and expendable, the characters, having embraced this, become liberated to drink deeply from the present and focus on the future.
This must be our mindset in business and marketing.
When the pilot light of our curiosity and preparedness to adapt goes out, we end up getting stuck in a self-made rut, bringing nothing but misery to ourselves and those around us.
We must hold onto the results of yesterday lightly, learning from them and using them to help correct a course, but never settling for them or lowering our expectations to their level.
Our clients and customers expect us to still care, to still be driven, just like sports fans do.
But even more than that, our family, our friends, and our selves have every right to expect us to be present because that's how we can play our small part in keeping our community vibrant.
Paying attention to our progress and our next SMART goals
The other thing that has helped virtual cricketer Steve succeed is the scoreboard.
Seeing a target and having a regular update of how many runs are needed per over to stay within sight of victory is galvanising.
For example, in my dabbling with The Final Overs, I have been getting better with practice but seemed to have a top score potential of just under 150.
Last night, which prompted me to write this post, I was set a target of 209 to win.
In an instant I felt both disappointment (because hope of getting a lower, attainable score was dashed) and acquiescence (I had opted to play, therefore I needed to see it through).
That's when I noticed how my mind flicked away from the total to the average number of runs I'd need to make in the next six deliveries, which was 10.45.
Suddenly, this huge target was no longer overwhelming because I was focussed on a little target. And that's what I focussed on throughout the match. Which I won, much to my astonishment.
This is why we encourage our clients to set SMART goals for any marketing activity.
When we have a goal, even if it is a "stretch goal" like 209 when the best you've done before was 147, it really helps maintain focus and draw upon inner strength and motivation that you might never have experienced before.
Michael has written a great article here, all about setting SMART goals for marketing.
The importance of stories - public and internal
The other thing I noticed when standing on the cricket pitch in the centre of the large stadium was how it fired my imagination.
I was there. I had been selected. Fans were watching me. Team mates were relying upon me. This is all the stuff of story.
And although the "story" was arising from an array of pixels and some algorithms, I noted how my imagination had been triggered and my experience was visceral; I was fully present and leaning in when taking part in the "game".
It's important to remember that marketing and advertising can help a business thrive by taking "story" seriously, as explained in this 2018 paper, Beyond Advertising Narratives: Josefinas and their storytelling products, by Liliana Dias and Patrícia Dias.
The authors detail how some brands, especially Josefinas (a mid-level luxury shoe brand), because very profitable when it took storytelling beyond the simple context of an ad, and built "product narratives" into each new line of shoe.
Of particular note, CEO Filipa Júlio noticed that her company's profile (along with consumer demand for its products) leapt when she shared the story behind a particular product range:
In 2014, Josefinas started to be featured in international blogs and fashion magazines, and the CEO decided to capitalize on this media attention by launching new products: the model Moscow and the line “Winter Wonderland”. Filipa Júlio thought it was interesting to share the “story” behind each product, and these campaigns feature the universes of the Moscow ballet and of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland as the designer’s inspirations for these products.
The brand soon realized that fans and consumers related to these universes, identified with characters and lifestyles, and appropriated the products as ways of expressing their identities or adding a little fantasy to their daily lives.
My experience with The Final Overs has surprised me. I am not a gamer but there's something about the story of my hero's journey in this game that has captured my imagination, much in the way that Josefinas' customers have held new lines of shoes in deeper ways because they're aware of the narrative that's inspired each story.
A hat-trick of business and marketing insights from cricket
In closing, let's summarise this "hat-trick" of business and marketing ideas from cricket.
- Firstly, we need to adopt a mindset of grit and determination to ensure we endure through the good and bad experiences that lie before us.
- Secondly, we can steer ourselves towards better outcomes if we have SMART goals in place so that we can edge forward, bit by bit, with small triumphs and/or corrections along the way.
- And, thirdly, we would do well to reflect upon and try to distil the "product narrative" or "business narrative" that captures the essence of what we're doing, and its why.
Internally, a sense of narrative helps us face up to each new "delivery" every day. Publicly, beginning to share "stories" about your products/services/organisation can help potential clients, customers, and advocates feel more connected to you and understand the value you bring to the community at a deeper and more engaging level.
The net result will be having an enterprise people are more likely to talk about. And as Oscar Wilde reminds us, there's only one thing worse than being talked about and that's NOT being talked about.
And at the time of publishing, we can offer you two hours of consultation free of charge, thanks to a special government program. We could use that time to help unlock your story or start mapping some goals. Enquire and enrol here for our free, two-hour mentoring program.