Last summer, I finally did it. I decided to change my tennis serve. That might sound like an easy decision, but it wasn’t. Allow me to give some quick context.

The serve is the first shot launched for a tennis point. (When you see Roger Federer throw the ball in the air and smack it, that’s a serve.) If you play tennis, you know that the serve is your most important shot. It’s also the only shot you can control completely, without having to react to your opponent. So, messing with your serve is a big deal.

As you know, I’ve been getting back into the swing of tennis for the past 1.5 years after a 15-year hiatus. My game had advanced nicely to a 4.0 level. But, my serve still used a beginner-style grip and swing. An advanced serve would require a very different grip. If you check out this image of grips, I was using between a two and three and needed to use a one. I also needed to change my toss and swing.

image of tennis grips
A guide to tennis grips Source: The Gaurdian

So, what went into this high-stakes (for me, anyway!) decision to change my serve? A bit of a cost-benefit analysis…

What is the payoff of changing? 
Power, control, and results. If I changed my serve grip and swing, I could hit the ball with more power. I also could better control where I place the ball. If I see an opponent has a weak backhand, I could serve the ball to that backhand. With that power and control, I could win more points more easily and, ultimately, win more matches.

What is the cost of NOT changing?
Limiting potential. If I didn’t change my serve, my game would stagnate. I wouldn’t be able to compete at a higher level. Also, I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I need all the easy points I can get.

What is the cost of changing?
Time, resources, and pain. I would have to let go of my old grip and old swing and learn a completely different approach. That would mean a lot of time spent practicing the new way and spending some money on lessons. It also would probably mean having a really weak, inconsistent serve during the transition and losing some matches.

If you think about it, these considerations are not unlike the ones a company should factor into a decision to change its approach to content. Whether you want to modernize a legacy print-focused approach or improve part of your content system, you have potential benefits and costs to weigh.

But there’s also an important difference here—the driver of competition and, consequently, the stakes. With tennis, I’m choosing to try competing at a higher level because it’s fun and rewarding. It’s a case of change or get bored. With businesses, a variety of trends you can’t control are driving content competition. It’s a case of change or die.

The Author

Colleen Jones is the author of The Content Advantage and founder of Content Science, a content intelligence and strategy firm that has advised or trained hundreds of the world’s leading organizations since 2010. She also is the former head of content at MailChimp, the marketing platform recognized by Inc. as 2017 Company of the Year. A passionate entrepreneur, Colleen has led Content Science to develop the  content intelligence software ContentWRX, publish the online magazine Content Science Review, and offer online certifications through Content Science Academy.

Colleen has earned recognition as an instructor on LinkedIn Learning, one of the Top 50 Most Influential Women in Content Marketing by a TopRank study, a Content Change Agent by Society of Technical Communication’s Intercom Magazine, and one of the Top 50 Most Influential Content Strategists by multiple organizations.

Follow Colleen on Twitter at @leenjones or on LinkedIn.

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