The most common problems with strategy is that (a) it can be extremely poorly based on actual insight and data about market and customers and (b) it tends to become antique the moment, you have dotted the last i and crossed the last t in the grand plan.
When I recently tought a group of students at Aarhus Erhvervsakademi and Dansk Markedsføring about digital strategy and business development one of my main messages was that strategy today is not a plan. It is a set of hypothesis about market, customers and bets, we can make that we set ourselves goals towards trying to achieve. And remain flexible towards revisiting when needed. Not in terms of overall vision and goals but on the road towards that goal.
Strategy today is a fluent thing and with all the unknowns out there and the constant changing landscape, you need to be prepared to have your core hypothesis invalidated at any point in time. You need to be able to adapt, and you need to do so by defining new hypothesis that you can design your evolving strategy and market approach around. Everything else is – at best – wishful thinking.
Considering all the progress electricity, the combustion engine and other major breakthroughs generated inside 50 years of inception, digital still has very little impactful progress to show for it. At least that’s the argument, Greg Satell makes.
To some extend he is absolutely right. Even though some real breakthroughs have happened and made a lot of things easier – shopping, booking travel etc. – if you think about the money spent, the money wasted, real challenges uncovered and real challenges created by digital, you could argue that he has a point.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. It is still possible to put real challenges – global challenges – at the centre of digital innovation and have those as our guiding posts. It is just a matter of our will. Human will. Not digital as such. Digital is just an enabler. And a potent one at that.
It’s popular to say that it is easy to get ideas. And it is true: It is easy. But more often than not the people saying those exact words are the ones who at the end of the day manages the status quo because they are either empty of ideas, or because they are affraid their ideas will only attract ridicule. Best not get any then.
Wrong! Ideas should always spring to mind, as there are always things that can be improved. The trick is to get relevant ideas. So how do we get there?
First of all, we know our market, our customers and the forces that drive them. A lot of it is culture based on habits, and those things are hard to change. So better know them. Deeply. Second, we always assume an idea is less relevant to begin with and needs to be tested to increase it’s relevance score. We do that through experiments. And thirdly, we borrow from other known structures, incentives and what not from across industries to make sure that through the validation of the idea, it both stays relevant and adds a take to it that differentiates us from our competitors.
That is how an idea becomes relevant, stays relevant and – with a bit of luck – adds a differentiated feel to it that will help fuel its success.
The other day I sat down with one of our investments to discuss their potential future direction. It was an interesting and productive session with some key questions arising during the conversation. One of those discussions was around who the customer actually is?
If you’re developing a B2B solution, is your customer the company, you want to sell to, or the person(s) actually making the buying decision? The answer has huge implications. Because it has a big bearing on how you frame your value proposition, how you go to market and what you need to do to close deals and show value after the purpose.
My general opinion is that the more you can focus on the one customer – the actual person – the better. The more you try to put a value proposition together for companies and teams, the more watered down it risk being because you have to fit too many different needs into just a single box. When you focus on just Customer #1, you can be really razor-sharp. And that is exactly what you need.
Great teams succeed together. A team full of individual stars lacking coordination and communication between the various positions fail no matter how good and expensive they individually are.
If those things are true in sports, does it come as a surprise that it goes for corporate innovation as well? A great football manager knows that in order to be successful with the team you recruit for players who fit the team and style of play centered around a shared philosophy for how the team should play – and win.
Greg Satell does a good job of noting the reasons why most corporate innovation teams fail. I think in many cases it can be boilt down to team – or the lack thereoff. Instead of building new teams, you should be focusing on augmenting the strengths you already have that have made your company successful so far. Succeeding in innovation is and always will be a team effort.
When you’re looking to solve a problem and improve something for someone, empathy matters. You need to be able to put yourself in the shoes of the customer, feel their pain and use the insight generated to fuel your product development efforts.
When we fail to employ empathy and other soft skills like it, we may get to fabulous solutions but we run short of understanding the problem. Solving a problem. And when we do that, the odds for success are very much stacked against us.
So treasure your soft skills. And if you don’t feel you have too many of them yourself, treasure the ones in your team who do. Because you need them in order to be successful in a truly outstanding way.
One of the keys to efficiency is to have a great box of tools fit for the task(s) at hand. For the same reason we’re constantly working to put the best toolbox at InQvation Studio together.
We already have some sharp tools in the box – Trello for overview, Mural for ideation, Lean Stack for jotting down high-level concepts for test etc – but we’re looking for more that fits the bill: Efficient yet flexible downstream while maintaining structure and oversight upstream.
The general idea is that no tool should be too rigid while at the same time not being so flexible that it becomes a total mess to manage. A tall order, it seems. Have you come across any that fits the description? It so please reach out.
Some ideas intuitively makes sense. Other ideas seem just about the most stupid thing, you have ever heard of. Yet, while the former can go on and become a viable idea, the dumb idea more often than not end up making a killing.
Andrew Chen calls it “The Dumb Idea Paradox”. I would just suffice to say it is a pointed reminder of one of the core guiding principles I have; you just can’t sit at your desk and expect to figure out the next big thing. You need to go out there, be curious and – as part of that process – challenge your own assumptions.
For some people betting on dumb ideas is the thing that they do. Maybe they just do it once, but it will be all that matters, once the idea takes off. For the rest of us, we need to tell ourselves that “no idea is that dumb” again and again while giving it enough benefit of the doubt to at least experiment and play with. Because, more often than not, no idea really is that dumb.
*: Of course there are really dumb ideas out there, and most of us intuitively know what they are. So there are exceptions to the rule, but expect the rule to be the rule.
When you start looking at problems in the world, one of the interesting indicators of a problem is to look at the number of people trying to solve problems within a sector outside of the established system.
Personally, I find it mindblowing to read that a survey done across a number of countries from 2010-2015 documented that more than a million people where involved in seeking solutions to their own medical needs. Essentially patients doing the work of doctors or the healthcare industry.
I am sure the healthcare sector is not the only one where this is the case, so the big idea here is: Instead of insisting on having all the answers yourself, look at how many people – preferably customers – are looking towards fixing the issues, they have. The more they are trying, the bigger the pain. The bigger the pain, the bigger the opportunity.
It’s been a month since I joined inQvation Studio, and what a month it has been; fastpaced, fun and with a lot of excitement about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
I have spent the month catching up on all the thinking that has gone into building the Studio idea. Furthermore I have been fortunate enough to be able to contribute to a couple of projects already, and I am very grateful of how that has turned out and the feedback, I have received. There are just cool, skilled, fun and generous people all over, and I never grow tired of people who passionately care about what we are all doing together.
On top of that we have spent some time getting bits and pieces in play that will help us in our exploration work going forward. Essentially we’re preparing for takeoff full well knowing that (more than) one or two things will go very differently than according to plan. The coming months will have us launch properly and will show whether we can make our trajectory. Based on the first month, I am very optimistic. Onwards and upwards.