We Tried It. Didn’t Work – Dirty Dozen Vol. 1

ORLY? You tried it and it didn’t work. Here’s our take on why that’s a rotten excuse to stagnate. 

If you live in the world and you like to solve problems, you’ve likely run into this one before. You make a recommendation to resolve an issue or capitalize on an opportunity and you’re met with this optimistic and helpful response, “We tried that 3 years ago. It didn’t work.”

Side Note – This month L+S turned 12 years old. This is 1 of 12 heinous business/brand/marketing lies we’ve heard. Celebrate with us by putting this one to bed once and for all. 

I’ve complained before about irritating, anti-innovation ideas like, “don’t reinvent the wheel” or “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But this really takes the cake for me. Oh how I hate it. Let me count the ways.

1. Who tried it exactly? 

If by “we” you mean anyone that isn’t me and my team, that’s really all I need to know to discard the concern. Egomania aside, it’s important to take an honest look at who was in charge of “trying” the thing. Not just who was in charge, but what resources and buy-in they had. Were they equipped – both from a creativity and expertise standpoint as well as a resourcing stand point?

If you take an honest look and the answer is wanting, maybe it’s not such a bad idea to give “it” another try. This time, make sure the lead is in a position to succeed.

2. What exactly did you try? 

If by “trying” you mean that you made a single attempt, then you need to open your mind. If the world knows that email produces results, but you “tried it and it didn’t work,” chances are you’re doing it wrong. 

It could be more complicated than that. Maybe you genuinely have specific industry or audience obstacles that prevent a cookie cutter approach to whatever “it” might be. But that shouldn’t stop you from ideation, experimentation, and iteration. That’s what optimization is. Know what you can’t optimize? One and done. Optimization requires optimism. And “it didn’t work – end of story” is not optimistic. 

3. How, exactly, was time able to stand still between then and now? 

In case you haven’t noticed. We’re living on the vertical edge of a hockey stick. 3 years, even 3 months, could make an enormous difference in tools, tech, and even – to a more limited degree – human behavior. What didn’t work last season may work this season. Especially if you’re headed back to the drawing board to think strategically about how you can try again. 

Trying again isn’t an option if you’re thinking, “we tried it already, it didn’t work.” And if you don’t try it again, it still won’t work.

Dirty Dozen Vol. 1, Full Track List

For our 12th birthday, we started compiling these beastly untruths designed to prevent progress and hinder health. We came up with so many we had to break it into volumes. Here’s the full track list on the first volume in a never-ending series. 

  1. Any young person can manage socials
  2. If you build it, they will come
  3. You have to use Google Analytics
  4. AI is coming for your job
  5. More data, less problems
  6. Email is dead
  7. It didn’t work before, so it can’t work now [YOU ARE HERE]
  8. Don’t bid on your brand, you’ll get those clicks anyway
  9. Your audience demographics are static
  10. Brand strategy doesn’t apply to me
  11. Collection is the same as analysis
  12. I need to make sure “Integrity” is in our core values

Our most popular articles

Are We Living In A Simulation?

Asana Review from a Project Manager’s Perspective

Have any thoughts to share? We love challenging conversations.
Reach out to discuss this article.

Related articles

Many scientists think so, and in a sense I agree – but my version of “simulation” looks a little different….
Memo: Blocking time for focus is easier than you think. You just have to do it….


Reach out to discuss this article.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.