The Adaptive Agency Blog

This Secret Is Way Better Than Setting Goals

by | Dec 16, 2022 | Strategy

Goal-setting might be great when you can crystalize a few things:

  1. a definition of success
  2. a way to measure it
  3. a deadline

But they’re lousy for other situations. Situations like:

I’m not really clear about what I want.

For example, “I want to be a better leader.” Great, but that’s a growth opportunity. The path, and the destination, will become more clear as we work at it. Setting an arbitrary goal today won’t necessarily get me there.

What I want isn’t easily measurable.

Say I want to stop competing on price and start competing on value. And I want to build more trust and generate more customer success as a result. Any metrics I create will miss the qualitative parts.

My timeline is vague because I’m learning as I go.

Maybe I want continuous improvement. Or I want my team to be more aligned with our values over time. Perhaps I want to increase brand awareness in my market. A deadline could force me to do the wrong things so I’m not “late.”

What do you do when a goal isn’t an effective tool?


The fastest and highest-potential way to move forward without relying on too many assumptions is to try stuff.

Start small with a hypothesis. A hypothesis is something like:

  • “If we try these other leads, they’ll cost more but we’ll net more profit.”
  • “If I get rid of these rules, my people will perform better.”
  • “If I have my best dialer specializing in making calls and passing opportunities to my best closer, opportunities and close ratio will go up.”

Are any of these things true? One way to find out: run an experiment.

An experiment can yield way more than a goal. Just as with a goal, an experiment can still have a definition and a timeline. But unlike a goal, failure is a perfectly good outcome.


Because succeed or fail, you rapidly acquire the information you need to rerun the experiment—or to run a different one.

Imagine what happens if you run a hundred small experiments over the next 12 months, with each experiment providing the intel you need to run the next one!

Focus On Compounding

One of the problems with goals is that they end and you start over at zero.

Experiments also end, but a successful experiment can raise your baseline.

Everything you do after that, including the next experiment, can take advantage of that new baseline. So your experiments can generate a compounding effect in every area of your business.

For example, if I run an experiment that helps me hire more-qualified employees, they’ll make the business even more attractive the next time I’m interviewing candidates.

Or if I conduct an experiment in delegating that frees up my time, that gives me more time for thinking of better experiments to run, among other things.

Moreover, say I do an experiment to get more high-quality referrals, now more of my book will be people who came to me because of trust, without my having to spend years earning it. So I’ll generate better profit margins, which means I can invest in better customer relationships.

Goals can be useful to help you achieve tangible things in the near term.

But experimenting and compounding are how you strategically create a new future for your business.