The Art Of Faking In Business Terms
· I am not against investments
· I am not against Business Cases
· I am not against creating solutions
In fact, I promote it…
Having said that, we have been just through the budget cycle for the year and the whole process of negotiating goals and investments is still very fresh in my mind. The interesting part is that the same story repeats every year. I have been to both side of the table and do understand the nuances of setting budgets fairly well. If it was a matter of setting just the goals and targets, it is an easier job. Should one do top down or bottom up targets, is less a matter of choice but a process of internalization for teams as well as management. But the complexity comes when one has to decide where to invest limited funds that a company has. There are structured techniques that help organizations define processes to shortlist candidates for investments.
We all hear words such as ‘business case’ more number of times than we hear our kids say us good night. Ok, ok! Yes I agree, we do hear our kids say us good night but, we are so engrossed in looking at those business cases at our bed time that we don’t find the right ROI in responding to their good night wishes! No, I don’t mean to offend anyone of us (or you) but we all know that 80% all such business cases are cooked. They all inflate benefits and underplay cost. At the cost of our bed time piece! To be very frank, I am not against making a business case.
However, I am not very excited if there is no business case even to invest in making a business case. Often, teams either know that it will not work (but have many reasons to still go after it) or they completely miss the point by not understanding what problem they are trying to solve, or worst still, what is that they want to achieve. A lot of times, investment word is used to perform “if-then-else” analysis in negotiating goals. Whatever it may be, I strongly feel that any team, who does not understand the art of faking, will get it wrong more often than not.
I have been using this phrase, “first fake it, then make it” for more than 15 years now, and have hardly gone wrong with it. In a fast paced business that we are in, the art of faking is absolutely essential and can put anyone far ahead than those who spend weeks and months in preparing business cases. Bill Gates once said, “if you have built a business case, you are probably already late”. He was brutally right. Let me say one more thing. A lot of bosses, who ask for business cases, are often buying time or just testing if you are serious. While it may be a right approach for the boss to test someone’s seriousness, it may be a waste of time for you, if you have a serious business to carry. Consulting companies would also recommend a need for business case as they get to build it and earn money. But, no bright idea gets to see the light of day if it has been just thrust upon you. So I am not quite excited about that as well. After all you got to believe in your own idea more than a consulting company. Give me your money and I will give you a business case. That’s right; I can create a business case, for whatever, if I am getting money. If one has all the money, resources and time in hand, anyone can do anything. But unfortunately that is not so, and one has to play in a shrunk triangle boundary created by these three forces. However, when you have a genuine idea or initiative, you don’t wait for money. That is where I always believed in, “first fake it, then make it”.
The art of faking helps one test waters without jumping straight into it. It helps you get confidence, get some good feedback, fine tune and most importantly gain confidence and conviction in your own idea. Most successful investments are the one that start with least of money and resources but whole lot of belief in that sparkling idea.
Corporations are often innovation killers and pharma industry is a big proof of that. Pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars every year on R&D but, most of the new molecules have been discovered by universities and not pharmaceutical corporations. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t have money more than what a student usually has, but that did not stop him from creating a killer application that transformed social networking.
So what is this faking business? Here are some quick tips that one can consider.
Learn to Be Unstructured
A problem, need, opportunity or idea (I will often use them interchangeably in this story) is best understood by being unstructured and looking for a lot of unstructured information that exists with multiple entities. Everyone encounters and reacts to a problem in different ways and have different experiences. It is often the weaker signal that has the answer or at least core of a problem. Live the problem through these multiple experiences.
Get a Grip on Real Problem
When a problem is not understood clearly, one can easily slip into a wrong direction. So get a good understanding of the problem and define a big picture in mind. If a problem is well defined and understood, half the job is done.
However, beware of holding onto a hypothetical problem. Don’t create a problem to solve it. It doesn’t fly.
And, no one needs a solution if there is no problem. So if you are thinking of creating a so called “solution factory”, you must be having too many problems(Oops!) or there has to be a business model that justifies such initiatives (such as crowd sourcing of solutions by a technology company).
Converge and Define Framework
It’s time that the problem and unstructured information is converged to a framework that can connect the dots. Create a presentable framework that can demonstrate alternative solutions. There can be more than one solution based on type of experiences that were recorded during collection of unstructured information. The solution should be abstract enough so that it can cover multiple hypothesis and flexible enough to absorb the feedback.
Put Framework to Test
Present, present, present, to as many interested parties as you can. Take feedback. You must present as if you are presenting a real solution. Bring passion through display of pains of problems, benefits of solution and differentiation of the idea. Demonstrate real life situations and use cases. Paint a big picture and show the possibility of shining town. If your subjects are ask for more, you are in right direction.
Now, ask for dollars.
Ask for dollars now and you will get it. But be wise. Define a smallest possible piece of solution that excited your clients or subjects the most. Check how your solution will solve first hurdle for your client. For example, provide visibility of process, inventory, landscape etc. Keep testing with client after every iteration. Every incremental solution should solve a part of problem so that there is a progress and proof of pudding.
A solution is never arrived. It is always a work in progress. So keep investing your time, effort, and money to sharpen it. Extend solution from problem solving to differentiation now. Raise your bar, expand your solution.
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