By Todd Cesaratto,

How to find out if your idea is crazy good, or just crazy…

“No battleplan ever survives contact with the enemy,” Helmuth von Moltke, nineteenth-century innovator and Prussian Field Marshal, once said (in a more verbose German formulation*). One consequence of his statement is: If you don’t bet, you can’t play; and if you don’t play, you can’t know if you’ll win or lose.

Going Off Book

In any enterprise that involves significant risk, perhaps the greatest enemy is the unknown. In the case of digitalization projects, an innovative thinker regularly unearths stumbling blocks that were not addressed in the initial assessment. For example, in the course of working on data integration a dev team might discover that theoretically accessible organizational data is bureaucratically off limits. People skills, not technology, might be the key to finding way out of this bottleneck.

An innovator has to work with a lot of different mindsets, and no rule book can cover every possible turn of the game. She or he often has to go “off book,” and take a leap of — not faith, but — confidence, self-confidence and confidence in the team.

 

Learning by Doing

Another quote by E.M. Forster helps us see the advantage an innovator gains by taking a confident leap into the unknown: “How do I know what I think until I see what I say”? This saying has a lot of variants: Learn to dance by dancing, learn to cook by cooking, etc. All of them get to an underlying truth: You’ll never know what you can do until you start doing it.

Move for move, an outcome matrix (below) can help you evaluate result. Anyone who has felt struck by inspiration would probably place his or her brainchild in the “crazy good” square. Von Moltke has another saying that urges caution here: “First weigh, then wager.”†Outcome Matrix

For large-scale digital business models and products, the question is: How can I determine if the idea works as well in practice as in theory? A software development firm like Sclable can help large corporations find the answers they need using its proven rapid-prototyping method. Without having to “bet the house,” you can play with a Sclable digital-business-model or -product prototype that incorporates the frontend, backend, mobile applications, real data, and real users — right from the start.

 

Jump Already, It Won’t Hurt (Much)

As your idea moves through iterations, you can weigh and wager with each step because the prototype offers accurate coordinates for where your project will ultimately land. If the idea falls on the outcome matrix’s right side, you can make the case for going into the pilot phase. Everyone wants “crazy good,” but sometimes “good enough” is better than what you’ve got. And if the idea comes down on the left side, then you can stop when costs and risks are at a minimum — maybe even avoiding a “crazy bad” trainwreck. In effect, the Sclable rapid prototyping method, allows innovative thinkers to take a large leap with little chance of landing wrong.

 

*Kein Operationsplan reicht mit einiger Sicherheit über das erste Zusammentreffen mit der feindlichen Hauptmacht hinaus.”

†The German is very similar: “Erst wägen, dann wagen.