I’m a fan of Andrew Hargodon and his writing on innovation. He’s at the
UC Davis Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I had the opportunity to meet him once but didn’t really get to chat. Believe it or not, I can be quiet at times. Recently, he discussed the Think/Do cycle again.
Reviewing current literature on the subject, he notes that innovation thinking has moved somewhat from coming up with lots of new ideas to “popular advice is starting to emphasize words like doing, testing, experimentation, prototyping, and iterating. The challenge is finding the balance.”
I have known people who take both types to the extreme. There are some who believe in just coming up with lots of bright ideas. Then it’s sort of a “Ready. Fire. Aim.” non-strategy–except that they never seem to get around to the “Aim” part.
There are other people, often but not always in big, bureaucratic companies, who practice “paralysis by analysis.”
Hargadon continues, “It’s a classic goldilocks problem. There’s an escalating cost to both thinking and doing. In the long run, spending too much time doing without thinking is as dangerous as too much thinking without doing.”
A good part of my early career was in product development. You’ve got to have ideas there! What I’ve always found (and maybe it’s just my personality type) is that you absorb ideas from everywhere you can. If you’re building Airstream trailers, go to a campground. Ask questions. Listen. Watch. Same for whatever product you’re working on. Customers, colleagues, competitors all have ideas. Then watch for technologies from outside your market area that might disrupt things for you.
But it does no good unless you actually build and market a product. And to do that, some strategic thinking is essential in order to assure that you are focused.
But, says Hargadon, “Here’s one of the traps: getting caught thinking and doing at the same time. This happens when you’re so focused on your next pivot that you don’t invest enough in what you’re doing now. While thinking and doing average out, the experience is far more binary. On or off.”
I’ve always found that focus is a critical component of success. When you lose focus, your efforts are diluted and you’ll miss the target.
Check out his complete post. Think about it. Then go do something.
Great advice. I've spent a lot of time teaching lean startup methodology in my Entrepreneurship and Innovation courses this semester: Innovate -> customer feedback -> persist, pivot, or perish -> repeat. The students are quite adept at putting this to work. But some of the original thought leaders in this area are now complaining that companies are failing at it because they're applying it as a formal, rules-based process and stifling the innovation. This is a problem that all existing organizations face…if they're successful, they want to preserve the process that got them there, but that leaves little room for innovation. This is unfortunate as they need to innovate if they want to be around 5 or 10 years from now. I'm a firm believer in "you need to be your own best competition to survive over the long haul."
Thanks, Shari. I forgot about you as a resource for innovation. Sorry. So, you have to innovate the innovation process. I like recursions.