Daphne S. Leger
Founder and CEO
Atrevidea
/
Expert Contributor

Move Fast to Stay Relevant

By Daphne Leger | Wed, 04/06/2022 - 13:00

While moving fast is the natural rhythm of work for startups, it often goes completely against the culture and way of working in more established organizations. Should we push more established organizations to get back to moving fast? The answer is a resounding yes. This article will cover why and how by sharing tactics we have used in our innovation practice to successfully help established companies move faster.

As an organization grows, it often puts into place processes, rules and structures that have many benefits, such as standardization and optimization, but that also end up slowing things down. The pages of business history are full of cases of organizations that were too slow to react and respond to the evolving market and got left behind by it. Think Blockbuster, Kodak, Nokia, Myspace, Toys R Us, Xerox and Yahoo. Beyond ensuring you don’t end up on this list, moving fast unlocks a lot of benefits for your organization. It allows you to differentiate better against slower competitors and get to the best version of your constantly evolving solutions more quickly. If you are part of an established organization that wants to remain relevant over time, you need to get back to moving fast. But how?

Lower Risk

Moving fast often sounds like risky business for established organizations. In fact, moving fast can contribute to lowering your risk. This is possible thanks to Lean Startup and Agile methods of experimentation. With these methods, an idea that may initially be full of risk goes through a series of experiments that validate hypotheses in a trial context in order to arrive at the high-stakes real-world context more quickly and with fewer unknowns. The questions to ask regarding any new business idea are, “What are the riskiest aspects of this idea?” and, “How can we validate them quickly?” For example, in a recent movie theater project, the new idea to be tested was seating with more privacy. The company wondered if customers would value this benefit enough to select these premium seats versus normal seating. We ran an experiment in just one cinema where we had set up three quick and low-cost prototypes of the privacy module. We offered these seats to clients when they were buying their tickets at the ticketing booth. In just four days, we had enough data to conclude that customers did in fact value this benefit enough to select these premium seats when given the option and the company was able to move forward with this element of the idea de-risked.

Fail Fast

The idea of moving fast is often associated with the adage “fail fast,” which seems to put failure on a pedestal, as if it were an objective to be reached. The much more accurate (but less catchy!) adage should be “learn fast.” If you and your team think of yourselves as scientists in a laboratory validating variables and hypotheses and adjusting as needed, the idea of “failure” has little place in your work. You are focused on learning as much as possible as quickly as possible. If an experiment doesn’t go as planned, this is not a failure but rather a lesson that will undoubtedly be valuable as you move to the next experiment. For example, when a Mexican grocery wholesaler wanted to validate if the claim made by clients that they would be willing to pay more for stocked out products was true, we ran a very quick experiment offering a “stocked out product special offer” to a subgroup of clients. Through this experiment, the company quickly discovered that though clients claimed to be willing to pay more to have access to these products, in reality once presented with the option, they were very price-sensitive and such a program would not have been widely adopted. The company was quickly able to move on to other potential solutions instead of wasting time planning the implementation of an idea that was not going to have the desired impact.

Action Over Perfection

If you’re going to push your team and organization to move faster, it’s important you recognize that moving fast means making imperfect decisions with limited information. It favors action over perfection. A good analogy is a game of speed chess in which over-analyzing every decision is a losing strategy. It is the antithesis of paralysis by analysis, which many established organizations suffer from. There is always more that they could do, check, or verify so they don’t move forward. If you want to push your organization beyond this behavior, you will need to prioritize and reward progress more than perfection because if people are afraid of ever getting things wrong, they cannot be agile in how they approach new business ideas. While we don’t need to go to the extreme of celebrating failure, we should not chastise or reprimand imperfect decisions that occur every so often due to our fast pace of work. As a leader, it’s important that you consider the messages you send when you react to such situations.

Fake Ad

When your team has a new idea, you should move quickly to validate it as opposed to going into long drawn-out planning mode. The easiest first step to validate an idea is what we call a “fake ad.” This consists of drafting a fake advertisement of the idea as if it was already implemented to put down in writing key elements like the value proposition and impact. This fake ad can be used internally to validate the idea with other areas and get feedback or externally with potential users with the same purpose. Many companies, including Amazon, use this practice with fake press releases and use them to validate whether the idea has a solid enough list of benefits that can compete against current offerings. As Amazon’s leadership says, “Iterating on a press release is a lot less expensive than iterating on the product itself (and quicker!). " Sometimes, we cannot even put together a solid fake ad and we realize that the idea is simply not robust enough to move to the next stage.

Prototypes

If the idea does pass this first test, you can then push forward to create a prototype of the idea and start to validate its most risky aspects. A prototype can be something as simple as a storyboard, a role play, a mockup, or something a bit more involved. Two of my favorite prototypes are the Fake Door and the Wizard of Oz. With a fake door, we start to promote our idea with real users before it is ready to be delivered in order to measure their reaction and interest. For example, I might publish a banner on my homepage of a new product or service just to measure how many clicks it gets (and notify users on the next screen that it is coming soon). The Wizard of Oz prototype entails doing things manually that will eventually be automatized. For example, if we have the idea of a chatbot, the first thing we would do is manually start to interact with our users as if we were a chatbot just to evaluate if this is a useful channel before actually setting up and programming a bot powered by artificial intelligence. In all cases, a prototype is something you can execute quickly in order to validate the riskiest elements of your idea before moving toward its implementation.

Next Steps

To move more quickly in an established organization, you need to convince your team that moving quickly can lower the risk from new ideas, explain that the goal is to learn fast, adopt a bias toward action versus perfection, and validate ideas as quickly as possible through experimentation. After all, in this day and age, moving fast is a matter of survival for any organization that wants to adapt to its evolving market, stay ahead of the competition, and take advantage of new opportunities.

Photo by:   Daphne S. Leger