Faster Is Better

sprinterThis is an up-dated version of an article published by Strategis Canada in 1997 and no longer available on their website.

THIS TITLE CAN’T BE RIGHT

You often hear that many small businesses fail because they did not have a business plan. Insufficient effort was put into some aspect of business planning – the product, the customer needs, the competition, the market niche size, etc.
Many would applaud the article “Speeding up by slowing down“. This was a real article written by John Snyder of the Innovation Network and originally published in the Strategis database in 1997. This article gave some very sound advice on how to plan better. Some key principles – get the big picture, make sure you have all the facts, apply creativity in getting solutions – are also emphasized in the SMM approach to problem solving. (See the SMM article on “How to think even better“)

SO “FASTER IS BETTER” OR “SPEEDING UP BY SLOWING DOWN”?

Most people want to get results (sales and profits) fast. The advice to spend time on a business plan, perhaps requiring some days or weeks of research goes against the grain. Some natural entrepreneurs never wrote a business plan and yet became very successful. Isn’t there an easier way? No, the short answer is there is no easier way: but there is a different way.

TRY IT, YOU’LL LIKE IT

A tale often told in Science classes goes as follows. One of the famous King Louis’s of France in the Middle Ages called his wise men together and posed them this problem. “If you take a bucket of water, full to the brim, and put in a dead fish, the water overflows. If you take the same bucket of water, full to the brim, and put in a live fish, the water does not overflow. 50 gold pieces to whoever can explain this. Come back in one week with your answer.”

One week later, all were gathered together. King Louis asked who had the answer. No one spoke. The King asked for a bucket of water, full to the brim. He dropped in a dead fish. The water overflowed. The King asked for another bucket of water, full to the brim. He dropped in a live fish. The water overflowed. The King supposedly then said “There, you see the value of experimentation!”

Certainly at about that time, more and more people began to try things (science) rather than just sitting around thinking how things could be explained (philosophy). In business, testing, testing, testing can be a way of fast-tracking the startup of a business.

An action plan should get the company off and running fast. This involves testing the company name, the product concept, the prototype product, the targeted market niche, promotional tools, etc. Use your friends, your coach, a mentor, your network of business contacts, samples of potential customers, etc. This approach is more likely to lead to a successful company and it’s fast.

It is far better to have gone through 3 modifications to prototypes in 6 weeks and be getting the product right than to have carefully prepared 1 prototype, which is ready to test in 6 weeks.

This is not to say that a business plan is not useful. But the business plan should be written in draft in parallel with the process of testing out ideas in real life. When the final version of the business plan is written, it should just be the summary description of what is largely already in place. As well as getting results faster this way, this approach has another major benefit in making success more likely.

GO WITH THE FLOW

One advantage of doing several small tests rather than one big test is that you can have several small successes. This is well known to accelerate the pace of productivity improvement or quality improvement programs. When people feel good about what they are doing, they are more confident and this translates into even more improved performance. Much has been written on this, including such concepts as the power of positive thinking and Zen.

Perhaps the most developed body of work is that by the flow pioneer, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He is a psychologist at the University of Chicago and one of the key gurus on the business world scene.  Check out a TED video as he describes Flow and the Secret of Happpiness. All of this would support any process where we try to get a series of successes as rapidly as possible. With success comes success.

CONCLUSION

Although the title may appear provocative, there are many advantages to a faster approach. At the same time, you do not need to lose the benefits of planning. This theme links in with some of the ideas in the magazine “Fast Company“. One of the best papers written by Bill Taylor, one of the magazine founders, deals with time as the most critical resource for companies, rather than money. It is also the most critical resource you have.  Treasure every moment and do the best you can with it. Remember that Arabian proverb:


Four things come not back — the spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life, and the neglected opportunity.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Mark Sadowski via photopin cc
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