Recently I met with a good colleague for a coffee to share experiences. One of the things, we discussed, was how to do a handover from a project, you started, to someone else who is going to turn it into a business. It’s an important milestone for what we do at inQvation Studio, and thus getting it right is super critical to us.
I always imagined that the right approach would be to go out and recruit a great team, get the people on board with the project and then basically step back. But after our chat, my mind changed.
Because it is not about stepping back. It is about being pushed out by the new members on the team. Because when they do that they show that they are in charge and you are no longer needed. In summary, the people you are looking for to join the team are those passionate, eager and ambitious enough that they will challenge you – and ultimately drive you towards the door. Because then they will have made it their own. And that is what is needed for success.
It is so easy being designated as the one who just says “No!” to everything and whose largest contribution to the team is to foster a negative energy in every room you enter. But have you ever thought about how these people may actually be trying to do something completely different and of immense value?
If you think they are assuming that your project will fail, maybe they are just trying to see the warning signs ahead of time to let you know where to look again, make changes – and ultimately succeed? Maybe they are just as invested in your common success as you are?
There is actually a term for it in project terms: Doing a pre-mortem; assuming that the project has just died and then work your way backwards from there in order to find the risks, you should see and address before it is to late. Given how many projects fail, maybe it is an exercise worth remembering?
The other day I invited a good acquintance to come and visit us at inQvation and to provide feedback on an idea, we’re toying with. The latter part made sense given that this person has about 30 years of experience within the industry, where our idea potentially offers a new angle on things.
I asked him to talk straight from the gut and tell me what he thought. And his first words resonated deeply: “Ideally speaking this idea is great. Unfortunately, the world – and this industry is not ideal”. And then he went on to provide amazing feedback on potential blind spots and pitfalls based on his wealth of experience, we hadn’t considered at all, and which proves to be critical hypothesis, we need to spend time trying to find a workaround for. Otherwise our idea will tank.
When we said goodbye he apologized for being so candid. But I insisted he shouldn’t and that this was the best feedback we could get at this point in time. Because it showed us some of the potential blind spots we would have essentially zero chance of figuring out on our own. And that is a god sent. Because the blind spots – left unattended – are the ones that could end up killing your idea and/or business.
The other day I spent a good chunk of the day browsing the web reading up on reviews on how current solutions address a particular problem we are looking at giving a new spin on at inQvation Studio. It was most illuminating.
Of course there is always the risk of you being biased by the idea(s) already in your head, when you do something like that. But no matter what getting insigths into what is already out there and why it’s (not) working is absolutely essential for early and very simple validation.
So, the next time you think about an idea and whether it has the potential to make a dent, start by going online and read up on those that went before you. Chances are that customers reviews, anecdotes and so forth will provide you with a much better starting point that anything you can dream up in that creative mind of yours all in your own. It’s real out there.
One of the things that continues to amaze me is the power of actually seeking out potential customers for solving a problem and chat to them about their experiences so far in both experiencing the problem and trying to find solutions for it.
It is easy to get an idea all by yourself. But the idea – or better yet; the theme in which your idea resides – gets so much extra power by actually meeting and listening to the real experts: Those experiencing the problem.
The exercise itself is really simple: Figure out who you need to meet, set up some meetings or chats for coffee etc, show up, ask a few questions and LISTEN. I guarantee you will leave much smarter. And you will be able to channel all that insight directly into whatever it is that you’re doing, if you choose to. And yes; you should.
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.
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.
Just because ideas can be hard to turn into something concrete, it doesn’t mean you should stop having them. There always should be – and there always is – room for the bright idea.
What you could do however is to stop thinking about the quantity of ideas you could have and focus all your energy of the outcome, you want to achieve.
If you have a great – sorry – idea about the problem you’re trying to solve and where you want to take your company down the line, you need fresh ideas. And chances are the ideas you will get by having a sharp focus on the outcome will be both relevant, valuable – and absolutely worth pursuing.