Here’s something that’s difficult to be honest about:
Positive outcomes can’t be entirely designed or engineered. Sometimes they need exploration, discovery, and curiosity.
These projects probably won’t have clear payoffs or immediate expected value; in fact, most of the time, they won’t. But with each project and insight, you’re also opening up new possible futures for you and your team; everything you do right now will lead to new possibilities for the future. Everything you aren’t doing will close off possibilities.
This can be a very rewarding, and even occasionally fun type of project to work in. Many times, it’s also extremely difficult, particularly when the spaghetti just won’t stick against the wall.
Very few things are ever a clear challenge-solution-outcome case study narrative. Sometimes, things just happen; if a body of work expands over a long period of time, or reaches enough people, good things will happen.
If you don’t play the game—and this sort of game is probabilistic—you’re never going to win. Nobody can teach you how to win the lottery, though perhaps they can show you how to print more tickets.
Your business model should benefit from luck, and not rely on it to survive.