The Wall Street Journal published their Business Insight Report yesterday (a quarterly release in collaboration with the MIT/Sloan Management Review).
I like these reports--they tend to be richer and deeper in content and, unlike many other online and offline publications, provide a valuable perspective.
Two articles stand out in this report. I the first, titled Why Business Plans Don't Deliver, John W. Mullins talks about key flaws in business plans Startups submit for review. If you've ever worked with startups, you can't read this without smiling. There's the "Here I am, never mind the problem" business plan, the "Coke for every kid in China" business plan, and the all time favorite "Our team walks on water" plan. Mullins highlights key areas investors look for before they kick a CEO out the door (such as for the phrase "we have no competition"). A fun and informative read for any CEO of a startup as well as for consultants who want to be more selective about which startups they work with.
The second article, In Search of Innovation, is about a topic very close to my heart: the process of innovation in the startup world. Or better yet, the lack thereof one. Unlike large corporations, startups often think that because they have a "cool technology" that they really want to use, they're already innovative. Wrong. Even cool features and capabilities run their course and the cooler they are the faster others will imitate them--and often be much better at it because they can only improve on what is already out there. While corporations invest in partnerships with ideation agencies like IDEO and SmartDesign, startups invest more in circling around the same idea in different ways. They are also much more attached to their original idea because often that's what they got funded to do. But to truly remain on the edge, deliver innovative products and solutions, and keep users and customers delighted by the experience, startups must look outside their comfort zone in new and unfamiliar ways.
This is exactly why our clients at Ustrategy hire us...and it's exactly why every project feels a little bit like a battle. Startups tend to want innovation but are afraid to open that can or warms. "What if we go someplace we won't know how to come back from?"
The Wall Street Journal article provides a very helpful structured perspective and some high level process ideas (warning: do not attempt at home: professional driver on closed course).
Great read for everyone interested in entrepreneurship, ideation, innovation, and startups.
Thank you to Ken Friedman for the pointer!