When it comes to innovation, many companies approach it as an all or nothing proposition. Without a clear road to profitability, they do nothing. If the cost to develop the new line of business seems particularly daunting, they table further discussion. When clarity around key assumptions seems challenging, well it’s better to delay (or worse yet, form a Task Force that meets once a week but generates no forward progress).
Innovation rarely comes in a clear glidepath to prosperity. Rather, it’s a journey where reaching the first hill provides more direction as to how to climb the next.
Once I worked in business development for a company whose CEO was passionate about innovation. When we brought him a new idea he never asked to see a detailed multi-year project plan with Excel spreadsheets showing ROI under various scenarios.
If the idea fundamentally held promise, he asked one powerful question: “What does it cost me to see the next card?”
Sometimes it was a bit of consumer research. Sometimes tumbling some high level numbers. Sometimes working with R&D to assess basic technical feasibility. But what the CEO knew was that like certain card games, winning in new business was about a series of antes–multiple lower cost steps that helped decide whether to make the big bet.
So instead of endless speculation (and task force meetings!) about whether there is a market for a new concept, spend a little bit of money on basic consumer research to get some guidance. Instead of months of study about whether there is ROI in being on Facebook or Twitter, get one of your junior marketing folks to spend a few minutes each day trying stuff to see what happens.
Usually the cost to see the next card is less than you think.
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