Amateurs Built the Ark, Professionals Built the Titanic. Why the Ability to Adapt and Learn Trumps Credentials.
The title reflecting how the Ark and Titanic were built is a famous quote with an anonymous origin. In an economy where if you want a job you have to create it and the market will dictate the value of your product or service, it is time that we build the “Ark”. An entrepreneur’s ability to prototype, assess and accept failure will go a long way in determining who will rise and who will fall.
A prototype is one of the most effective ways to gauge the viability of your venture. By creating an original, functional, small scale model of your product or service, you are able to let potential customers see it, test it, taste it, use it and smell it. This process will point out potential problems in the product’s design, giving entrepreneurs an opportunity to fix the problem before a large-scale launch. The feedback you receive from your prototype often leads to design improvements, and new features you may have never realized on your own.
Here are some prototype assessment questions suggested by “Corporate Venturing: Creating New Businesses Within the Firm” by Block and MacMillan, 1985.
1. Completion of product testing: Is there are real market opportunity? Will customers buy the product? How should the product or service be marketed or distributed? Are your early assumptions about the opportunity still correct? What level of sales can be achieved?
2. Completion and financing of the prototype and venture: How long does it take to produce the prototype? What is the cost? What is the time frame in which the prototype can be produced?
3. Production start-up: Are operations working as expected and if not how can you improve them?
To complete your assessment don’t forget about continuing to scan the marketplace for competition and potential collaborators.
Finally lets put failure in perspective. Personally I have experienced at least 15 different business failures. Yet I still get up in the morning ready to try again. The failure of a venture does not have to reflect on you as a person. Successful entrepreneurs use failure as stepping stones to success. As detailed in the November 1995 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine, NBA great Michael Jordan frames his athletic failures to breed success. Jordan states ” I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in career. I lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed”. I think we can all agree that after 6 NBA Championships and a hall of fame career, most people would classify Michael Jordan’s basketball efforts as a success.
In echoing a great quote from Eleanor Roosevelt who said:
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do”
So dear friends I implore you to protoype, get your feet wet, dump cold water on your head and take an honest look in the mirror. This will lead us to best practices and the promised land.
Until next time, be good and cultivate your community of friends.