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The Tyranny Of ‘The Plan’

 "In the highly turbulent, quickly reforming environment of the new economy, the competitive advantage goes to the nimble and malleable, the flexible and quick. Speed and agility trump size and experience. Fast to find the new is only one half the equation; fast to let go is the other important half." Kevin Kelly

One of the exercises I do in my Innovation Workshop makes a powerful point – in business we are conditioned to formulate a plan (which is as perfectly thought through as it can possibly be in an attempt to predict outcomes and minimise the chances of failure) and then execute it. Reward systems and incentives are often set up around this practice. Much management time is spent crafting 'The Plan'. Execution of 'The Plan' then begins. At the end of the 'The Plan' there's an outcome – a big reveal, a presentation, a launch. And then the business finds out whether 'The Plan' was successful or not. But by then there's no time left to put it right if (God forbid) it doesn't work. Or adapt it when you discover that your market and your customers have moved on and your outcome is no longer relevant. In the exercise, this is neatly illustrated by the fact that recent business school graduates have been shown to be spectacularly outperformed in the task by recent kindergarten graduates who make no assumptions, prototype rapidly, and iterate as they go.

Conventional wisdom says wait until everything is ready, all the research is done, all your ducks are in a row. Unconventional wisdom says start before you are ready. That good things happen when you do. That this enables us to: "steal a march on the forces of procrastination, perfectionism, overpreparation, fear and self-doubt". Put simply, ready is too late.

Conventional wisdom says that once we have a plan, success comes from single-minded, focused execution. Unconventional wisdom believes that curiousity and open-mindedness can outperform will-power and rigid standards.

Conventional wisdom says that once you get good at making money from something you should concentrate all your effort on getting even better at making money from it. Unconventional wisdom teaches us of the value of abandoning our successes.

In an environment where your customers often get there before you do, there's a lot to be said for unconventional wisdom.

Thanks to Johnnie Moore for links used in this piece.

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