If the assumption is the ‘mother of all fuckups’, then the Conformation Bias is the father. In short it’s your mind’s natural tendency to see only the information that fits into the image you want to see. You filter and interpret everything in the direction of the desired conclusion. This error in our thinking also quickly creeps into the innovation process and can have very costly consequences. So: unmask it!
Okay, you have spotted a wonderful business opportunity. A ‘hole in the market’. Your product will be rocking it! You have laid down everything in a thick business plan (for financing) and the development has already been integrated into Microsoft projects and set up a solid P3O. Or – I prefer – you work from an agile philosophy and have only worked out an outline vision in a beautiful roadmap and you will scrum the development of your product. Top!
But neither is a guarantee of success. Nothing gives that guarantee. Use what you always have with you: your healthy, critical mind. In my years as an entrepreneur I have had a large number of start-ups. Unfortunately, most of them died prematurely. And often afterwards I had the feeling that I actually knew from the start that it would not work. That’s why I came up with the Knockout 5.
One of the principles of agile is to ‘maximize the not-doing’. Combine this with what grandma said: ‘Start before you start’, and you have the Knock-out 5. With this simple method you avoid putting time, energy and money into something that was actually pointless at the start.
Step 1. Write down as many reasons as possible why it will NOT work. Do this with as many people as possible. Use a whiteboard and post-it’s.
Step 2. You determine the five most important stumbling blocks via dot vote ; the main reasons why it will not work.
Step 3. In plenary, devise a fair rebuttal for all 5 stumbling blocks. Have the audience stick their ideas to the relevant stumbling block.
Step 4. Discuss the ideas in a plenary session.
Step 5. Do not start your business until you have found a satisfactory solution for all 5.
( Reverie . Well if I were only Simon Sinek. Then I would whip up this simple methodology into a beautifully illustrated book (which was bound to become a best seller) and spread my ideas around the world through expensive seminars. Even if it must be said that he is a better speaker is than me.)
A far-reaching variation on the knock out 5 is the so-called ‘red team’. This method of organizational improvement comes from the military, more specifically from the Red teams of the US Navy. The idea: strengthen your organization by shooting holes in it. A special red Marine team is given a simple mission: make sure you defeat your own organization. Or, translated to the business world, make sure that your own organization goes bankrupt. Assemble a multi-disciplinary team and ask them what the competitor looks like that beats their own organization. The red team becomes a tough competitor to the existing organization. You then have two choices: either you adopt the teachings and change your operating system, or you make a real venture of the red team a real team.
Ps: setting up a red team within a corporate is one of my ambitions. Unfortunately this dream has not yet come true, but I will keep trying …