In the last post I was going to link to an article about how trying to answer all “what about” questions prior to an investment can actually be a bad idea. I just couldnt remember where I had read article, guess I spent at least an hour on google looking for it to no avail. But now I stumbled across it on Bloomberg, apparently it was called “How to kill Innovation: Keep Asking Question” by Scott Anthony and appeared at havardbusiness.org.
About 15 minutes into the review, the questions began to come in.
What about the competitive landscape? Can we model the impact of someone entering the space early?
What about the market size? Are we sure these numbers are right?” another wondered.
What about the regulatory regime. Are these timelines really realistic?
They were important questions, and robust answers would help bring each opportunity into sharper focus. And the group’s intentions were good — figure out which opportunity was the most attractive so that the company could direct its resources appropriately.
The problem, though, is what follows “What about…” questions. The next step from almost any discussion like this one is to conduct further research. And, “What about…” questions never stop. Each answer generates questions whose answers lead to further questions. It could become infinite.
Resource-rich companies have the “luxury” of researching and researching problems. That can be a huge benefit in known markets where precision matters. But it can be a huge deficit in unknown markets where precision is impossible and attempts to create it through analysis are quixotic. Entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of asking “What about…” questions, and in disruptive circumstances that works in their favor.
So what’s the alternative? Substitute early action for never-ending analysis. Figure out the quickest, cheapest way to do something market-facing to start the iterative process that so frequently typifies innovation. Be prepared to make quick decisions, but have the driver of the decision be in-market data, not conceptual analysis. In other words, go small and learn. Pitch (or even sell) your idea to colleagues. Open up a kiosk in a shopping mall for a week. Create a quick-and-dirty website describing your idea. Be prepared to make quick decisions.
This makes a lot of sense to me in general and especially in an environment like the Ivory Coast where things can change quickly, and where the information required to make conceptual analysis is hard to come by. I am very much trying to start small and see how it works out, and base future business decision on the in-market data obtained in an iterative process. One just have to take the plunge even if there are unanswered “what about” questions.