Another post by Kelly Herrell, one of our guest bloggers. Kelly is the CEO of Vyatta, “a venture-funded company disrupting the networking industry” and is also a long-time member of ExpertCEO. You can read his blog at http://kellyherrell.wordpress.com/
“The best way to get a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”
- Linus Pauling, Nobel laureate
In this blog I’ve previously written about the CEO’s hands-on role as it relates to disruption and innovation. We discussed owning it personally – the CEO as “Category Evangelizing Officer,” and being innovative and disruptive ourselves instead of relying on the organization to produce it.
But it’s not “Miller time” until the innovation is successfully executed in the marketplace. And here’s the rub: The higher the degree of innovation or disruption, the less likely it is to know what the right market execution model will be. Call it the Craziness Correlation: Crazy ideas often have similarly crazy execution models.
Why is this? It’s because industries are structured around the status quo. Supply chains, partners and sales channels are established around the incumbent offering. But a disruption is by nature different… so it follows that the greater the disruption, the less likely it will get absorbed into the existing industry structure. Look at Apple’s iTunes: The disruption was digitized music, and its market execution model is radically different from the days of tapes and CDs. It’s also up-ended the supply chain of music by changing the way artists get their product packaged, priced and distributed. That’s the Craziness Correlation at work.
So if your innovation needs a unique market execution model, and it might be a Crazy one, then you’re going to have to find it. How? It’s a creative discovery process. I was pondering this fact while reading an excellent book on creativity, where the author makes the following point:
- When it comes to creativity-based success, no one bats 1,000.
- The most successful people are the ones who try the highest number of things. It’s in that volume of ideas and attempts where success is found.
In other words, the creatively successful necessarily fail – a LOT.
So if you’re a CEO wielding a huge potential disruption, your biggest challenge is how to find your execution model. And given points 1 and 2 above, it means there will likely be a lot of failures in trying to find it. But there’s no choice; you HAVE to find it. And here’s the issue:
a) Failures mean multiple attempts,
b) Each attempt costs time and money, and
c) Organizations reward success, not failure.
How do we encourage rapid explorations knowing they will likely fail? A few principles come immediately to mind:
- Budget for failures. Otherwise the downstream impacts will produce a cycle of negativity.
- Make sure people are aware that failure to execute ideas is the greatest failure, and that it will be punished.
- Make sure everyone learns from past failures.
- Create a bounty for the one(s) who successfully find the answer.
I’d love to hear other thoughts on how to effectively manage through such a challenge. The dialogue is going on in here…