Measuring Possibilities - Innovation & Strategic Planning

When we talk about strategic planning or innovation in an organization, we are essentially talking about possibilities, or something that can happen.  Some people might suggest that these are dreams and passing fantasies to mulled and others might suggest that one should pursue every possibility with vigor, regardless of the risk and consequences. 

Either route could prove to be distasteful; on one hand, doing nothing is safe, but unfulfilling for most people.  On the other hand, chasing every possibility tends to end badly.  So, as an entrepreneur, what does one do?  It seems that there should be some method of weighing and measuring possibilities to try to determine what makes sense.  In other words, how do we determine what is truly possible versus what might be impossible?

Every possibility begins with an idea.  How do we measure the strength of an idea?

The answer is often in the way that we look at the organization.  If we have an understanding of the organization ? why it exists and what it hopes to accomplish, we can evaluate a possibility from the onset: does this possibility serve the company?s mission and will it help to reach the vision?  If yes, then it?s got a leg to stand on.  If not, you might consider weighing out some other ideas.

Another question to ask is whether you have the resources to support the idea.  This might be a typical scenario:

Company ABC  has a sales force automation tool that happens to be outstanding.  However, there are a million of them on the market, and they recognize this.  They feel that their real advantage in the marketplace is that their on-demand solution offers XXX, a cutting-edge technology.  The problem with the technology is that it is so new to the marketplace that they have to educate people on how to use it, and what the benefits of it are.  This will require extensive cold calling, event development, etc..  They are running out of money and time.  What do they do?  What is possible?  Can they do whatever they do, and do it in a way that will continue developing their brand, rather than taking away from it?

We've seen the results of companies launch products or services prematurely, and the damage it causes a brand or organization.  Ensure the resources at hand are appropriate for the task will most likely mean the difference between success and failure.  This is more than just capital, this includes manpower, the ability to fully develop it, test it, package it, price it appropriately, market it, launch it and continue to develop and tweak it as different scenarios are uncovered.  While doing something is better than doing nothing at all, doing it poorly can result in drastic consequences.

How many times have you been to a store that carried a wide range of products, from dog food to light bulbs to office supplies to paint.  On and on the list goes.  Now, to be certain, you could visit some where you go to the cookware section and ask about the warranty on the motor of the Kitchen Aide mixer, and the sales person could tell you about it, and probably tell you stories about the fact that one of the oldest Kitchen Aide mixers still in use is over 100 years old, and on and on and on. 

However, there are the stores wherein you could probably ask a sales person about the same Kitchen Aide Mixer, wherein you will get a response indicating that they have no idea what the warranty might be, if they knew what it was at all, and that, if you look closely, you could find the answer on the box, or, better yet, you could call the manufacturer, directly.  Needless to say, this is NOT the type of service that keeps most consumers as loyal consumers!

Capability, or the knowledge and skills to do whatever it is that we are thinking of adding to the company.  In the case of our sales person, capability includes the ability to train our employees about the product or services that we are offering before they are confronted with an interested customer.

Another consideration for measuring the likelihood of a possibility is capacity.  Have you ever gone to an ice cream shop that simply ran out of ice cream?  If it happened repeatedly, would you continue to patronize it?  I?ll bet that if you do, it will be less frequently then you would if they had the capacity to keep up with the demand on their products. 

Finally, you need a plan. 

While my wife and I were driving out of state, while I never get lost, I decided to try it out, just to see what it was like.  :)  During the adventure, I asked my wife to pick up the map and guide us to our destination.  Well, being a good sport, she picked up the map, frowned a bit, scratched her head and sighed.  I asked her what the problem was.  Her response was that map reading was kind of like interpreting hieroglyphs for her.  The map simply wouldn't work for her.

Just like the map, the plan you need has to work for you.  It does you no good to hire the best consulting firm in the world to help you develop a business plan to produce this product or service at some ungodly fee that exceeds the GDP of some small countries if the plan does not fit your organization.  If your organization needs to test the market, first, plan for that.  Know your criteria for success.  Know your criteria for failure.  Be clear on it.  If a detailed business model with market studies, competitive analysis and business models is what is going to make the difference for you, then go that direction, but use a plan that will work for you.

While you may have other considerations when you measure the strength of your possibility, include the five key areas to increase the likelihood of long-term success with your possibility:

Alignment with company beliefs
Determining what resources are available
Have the capability
Have the capacity
Have a plan