Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Navigating Innovation’s Perilous First Mile

More than 50 percent of companies don’t survive to their sixth birthday.

Sobering insight into the challenge of innovation.

The Challenge:
According to the statistics Anthony cites, 75 percent of VC-backed start-ups fail to return their investor’s capital; 95 percent fail to hit their financial targets. Of more than 10,000 VC-financed software start-ups since 2003, only 40 are worth more than US$1 billion. More than 50 percent of companies don’t survive to their sixth birthday.
I asked the innovation expert to describe the biggest pothole in this stretch of road. “The single biggest challenge facing innovators in the first mile is maintaining the appropriate balance between thinking and doing,” he replied….
….“Either end of the spectrum is dangerous. At one extreme is ‘paralysis by analysis.’ Too many innovators create elegant pieces of Microsoft fiction. The Excel spreadsheet features ‘what if’ analyses and pivot tables that would rival those created by a seasoned investment banker. The PowerPoint document is stunning, with charts and visuals comparable to Al Gore’s award-winning presentation on climate change. And the Word memo summarizing it all features prose that is so lucid that somewhere Malcolm Gladwell is shedding a tear. The plan looks airtight on paper, but in reality, it is incredibly brittle. As Intuit’s Scott Cook once quipped, ‘For every one of our failures, we had spreadsheets that looked awesome.
The Balance:

Success in the first mile comes from striking a balance between the two extremes of thinking and doing,” Anthony concludes. “Innovators should be structured and thoughtful, but with a clear bias to action. The overarching goal is to find the magic ingredients behind every great idea: a compelling solution that targets a deep need in a way that creates value. The first mile can be both promising and perilous. The right approach makes all the difference.”

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