A comedian who understands the iterate or die business model

11:53 AM

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Harvard Business Publishing had a great article called
Innovate Like Chris Rock most people are aware of Chris Rock as a comedian but when you see him talk about how he creates comedy on a 'global scale' you get a sense for how smart he really is and what is really involved in creating anything on a global scale.

So here is what he does:
  • He writes up some ideas on a yellow pad
  • He goes to a small local club and tries it on 30-40 people
  • He throws out the things that just don't work and iterates until there is a good 45 minute set
  • He progressively exposes the comedy set to larger audiences, providing value along the way
  • Finally (and what most people confuse as being the start) he shows up on HBO as the calm, cool, relaxed provider of world-class comedy
What he does not do:
  • Sit in a room by himself or with one or two others and create and deliver entire sessions
  • Work to get it perfect before he lets the world see his creation
  • Take initial negative feedback and toss out all of his ideas and start from scratch again
In the end even though Chris is a world class performer he still works it through a process but not a process that stifles the innovation!

In our business we battle this sort of thing all the time as do our customers; those being people who are trying to propel their organizations away from antiquated thinking by embracing newer and better technology strategies and revenue models as well as those who are creating new software as a service products and services to offer to enterprise and government entities.

What they battle on a regular basis is the mentality of "we gotta get this right", "don't do something until you can show all of the ramifications", "that's not how we make money today" and the long litany of similar and no less spine chilling words used to protect the silos and fiefdoms that can exist in the world of enterprise and government product and service providers.

What happens is that people throw out sage advice like 'proper planning and input from everyone will ensure success' or 'make sure to check with so and so', when in fact so and so is the Chief of No and more No.

Now to be fair organizations that operate like that probably did not start out that way but as they got bigger and 'smarter' (the MBA way) they stopped iterating and replaced iteration with planning and project plans and approvals and internal experts as the best way to innovate and get things done when in fact, it yields some of the least innovative outcomes that are humanly possible.

What I am increasingly finding is that it is virtually impossible to find anything in business that would not benefit from an 'Iterative Process" and that virtually every success story works its way back to companies and yes comedians that work that way.

When I talk about an iterative process and their are many versions of the idea I mean a process that:
  • Makes it easy to get started
  • Makes it possible to get to a first version of a new product or service in 30-60 days
  • Is understood to be a continually evolving process that demands improvement based on actual customer feedback not just the internal noise of an organization
  • Has as its number one goal to achieve something new; new revenue, new markets, new thought leadership
To be sure this is a specific view, one that works for our company and our customers but it can be iterated by others, so take a stab at that and iterate the definition for yourself.

Rest assured if you are working in organizations that are unable to implement an iterative process or if you are providing a service that is not created using a iterative process you are likely to fail in the short-term (as a new company) or wallow in mediocrity as an 2nd or 3rd tier player in the industry that you are in.

So take it from Chris Rock, iterate or die!


Ed Loessi

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