The fine art of inNOvation

by Arlen Meyers

The fine art of inNOvation

Business plan. Those two words have been used a lot to kill a lot of innovative ideas. Yet, it persists in the entrepreneurial consciousness. It’s a mainstay in the manager’s tool box. Sure, it you are going to ask for money, you will in all likelihood need to write a business plan. But, so few entrepreneurs actually get to that stage, that it’s putting the cart before the horse. I’m not the only one who thinks so. There are lots of reasons why writing a business plan, or even worse, telling someone to write a business plan, is a bad idea. Here are some more:

1. Business plans are usually smoke and include financial projections that, at the most, are guesses without valid underlying assumptions on which they are based.

2. There is little evidence that business plans are related to business success.

3. Few successful businesses wind up doing what they said they would do in their initial business plan

4. Few investors or sponsors want to see a business plan first. They want a concise pitch that generates further interest.

5. As Guy Kawasaki points out in ” The Art of the Start: 2.0″, business plan competitions are really pitch competitions. It would be a whole lot easier for BP judges to watch submitted 3 minute videos than have to plow through pages of business plan submissions.

6. Business plans are used by dull managers to dissuade innovation. Have an idea that could kill our cash cow? Go write a business plan and get back to me. It’s called triage by inconvenience.

7. Most intrapreneurs don’t know how to write a business plan so it’s another way to kill ideas.

8. Planning is different from writing a business plan

9. Most of what you would put into a business plan anyway can be validated before and if you get to that stage.

10. Better to create and test a business model canvass than a business plan

Distracting you and hoping you’ll get discouraged is but one arrow the in the anti-innovative bureaucrats quiver. There are many more:

Deflection: turfing you to the death committee

Delay: Maybe some other time

Denial: We don’t have a problem

Discounting: It’s really not that big of an issue

Deception: They make up facts that discredit you

Dividing: Divide and conquer

Dulcifying or appeasing: Making meaningless concessions

Discrediting: Sniping

Destroying:Trying to ruin you and your reputation and get you to quit or retire

Dealing: Compromise and give you just enough to make you go away.

There are alternatives to writing a business plan based on :

Prototype: Sketch out your idea quickly with the Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition Canvas.

Question: Ask yourself what needs to be true for your idea to work, i.e. define the underlying hypotheses.

Test: Test the desirability (will customers want it?), feasibility (can I build it?), and viability (will it be profitable?)

Iterate: Adapt your initial rough Business Model and Value Proposition Canvas and refine with increasing evidence from testing.

Still not convinced? Here are some more innovation killers – try these too.

Look out for killer phrases that start with “That’s a good idea, but…”

  1. It’s against company policy
  2. It’s not practical
  3. It’s not necessary
  4. We don’t have the resources
  5. It will cost too much
  6. We’ve never done it that way
  7. Our customers (or vendors) won’t like it
  8. It needs more study
  9. It’s not part of your job
  10. Let’s make a survey first
  11. Let’s sit on it for a while
  12. That’s not our problem
  13. The boss won’t go for it
  14. The old timers won’t use it
  15. It’s too hard to administer
  16. Why hasn’t someone else suggested it before?
  17. Let’s form a committee
  18. We should wait until the economy improves
  19. Who else has tried it?
  20. Is it best practice?

No business pllan survives the first customer, and it is definitely helpful to plan. However, writing it as the first step is another story and just discourages innovators. Stop it.

Maybe those two words will help.

 
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Arlen MyersArlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org and co-editor of Digital Health Entrepreneurship

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