Exhibit 1: Pacific Bell
Years ago Pacific Bell was going to step into the deregulated California market because of a telecommunications bill that had passed.
A friend of mine spent months looking at getting into long distance, bundling services, and creating unique offerings for the small business sector. He spent tens of thousands of dollars for each survey he ran to collect market feedback. I know this because after a year of planning and re-planning how to enter the market, he still hadn't. So when we talking about starting a company, he was ready to his hand at something new. All that planning wasted.
Exhibit 2: Iridium
I also remember a company called Iridium, that was building a global, satellite-based, cellular network so that you could talk anywhere with their global phone. But all the planning they did didn't help them predict the rapid lowering of per minute charges in the digital cellular industry, while they were building satellites. All that planning wasted.
Exhibit 3: Facebook Places
In a more recent example Facebook spent time and energy planning the launch of “places” to compete with Foursquare. Meetings were had, assignments given out and monitored, and the product was released. Just before it was cancelled. All that planning wasted.
What I'm Not Saying
I'm not saying you shouldn't plan. If you're starting up something new, from a service to a product, to a company, reducing risk is critical. People think entrepreneurs are risk-takers but in reality, our goal is often to mitigate the most amount of risk we can- constantly looking for ways to push that risk out, or push it on to others (that gets talked about a lot less, huh?). So some amount of thinking, evaluating, and contingency planning is critical.
But all the planning in the world won't matter as long as that great idea of yours is still in your head. As long as it's just an idea, all your plans won't mean much. The only way you can even create logical, reasonable, and useful plans is if you've put something out there for people to react to. Which is why some people now talk about it as…
Leaving the Building
You have to get your ideas out into a place where people can react to them. I have a friend who created some leadership material for a 6 month course she planned to give to a group of young women. But instead of planning for every possible contingency, she created a 6 week trial, brought some women together, and tested the short-version of the material. As she hoped, she learned a lot! Best of all – she could tweak the little areas she needed to so that her full course would be perfect.
So what's the best move? Stop waiting for the perfect moment. It's an illusion. It doesn't exist. Instead, start today. Take a tiny step forward. Any step. But get your stuff out there so you can start collecting feedback right away. You never know what you'll find. In some cases we've seen clients adopt our products quickly only to discover them using it in ways we never imagined. That's the benefit of testing – it helps you see how the real market reacts to real products instead of just ideas in your head.
So what's holding you back?