Monday, November 14, 2005

Chapter 4: Consider How Long It May Take to Create a 2,000 Percent Solution

Chapter 4

Consider How Long It May Take to Create a 2,000 Percent Solution

The material in this chapter does not relate to any specific section in The 2,000 Percent Solution.

In chapter 3, you identified some potential solutions that work well with your organization’s capabilities to create nth degree advances in a number of customer and end user benefits that would create enormous increases in your sales. Now, it’s time to examine those potential solutions for how long it will take to make progress.

Time is an important element in focusing your attention because benefits that arrive sooner are surer and more valuable than ones that take longer. Certainly, in choosing between creating a 2,000 percent solution that you can put in place over a few months and one that will require decades, most would choose to pursue first the one that requires only months. An analysis of the present value of the cash flow benefits would also validate that choice.

Let’s pick up on the publishing example from chapter 3 to look at the time implications of the choices facing the publisher. The publisher’s most valuable benefit for increased sales is to generate unlimited amounts of positive word of mouth about its books.

Here are some of the potential solutions that the publisher might have identified that help improve other benefits:

- Publish books written by well-regarded celebrities with intriguing new information

- Authors dedicate royalties to popular charities which will promote the books

- Companies donate books as part of their product promotions due to the subject matter

- Tie the book launch timing to a series of related broad-scale media events

- Create an appealing corporate-sponsored contest related to the theme of the book

– Provide newsworthy disclosures daily related to the book.

Next, the publisher needs to think about how long it would take to pursue each of these potential solutions. Clearly, there are only a limited number of celebrities who could have the right kind of appeal and would be willing to tailor their books to this purpose and donate their proceeds to charity. One might work on attracting those celebrities forever, and still not gather a single one. Some other approach for adding word-of-mouth interest is needed. This conclusion is particularly true for a small publisher whose market strengths might not be considered to be valuable enough to attract such celebrities.

Many celebrities are already associated with corporations through endorsement contracts and charities through voluntary activities. Having identified which celebrities the publisher wants to pursue, the next step is to research their commitments and connections to corporations and charities. Then, the publisher could see which celebrities could be approached through these intermediaries. The best starting point would probably be a charity. In some cases, the publisher might find that the corporate sponsor and the charity also have a tie. That combination could be even better.

As the publisher, you next need to develop a book concept that fits with all of these circumstances. Then, you should document why the book concept will be very valuable to the celebrity, the charity and the corporate sponsors.

How long would it take to pursue these activities? Not very long if you know what needs to be done, but most publishers don’t have the skills in house to advance such an approach into reality. Currently, publishers wait for authors’ agents to approach them with such packages … and then the acquisition editors choose among the proposals for the most valuable book concepts.

What’s required is not unlike what theatrical, motion picture and television producers do. An important step might be to develop a partnership with such a producing organization that could participate in providing some of the other entertainment that could be built around the concept. Our publisher needs to focus attention on either working with people who have these skills and contacts or hiring such people.

No one should build a possible route towards a 2,000 percent solution around one potential set of allies. So our publisher needs to explore associations with other potentially enabling parties, like the celebrities’ agents, corporations and nonprofit organizations that sponsor popular events, and entertainment impresarios. Another approach might involve partnering with foundations that wanted to help pioneer this type of nonprofit fund-raising. Such foundations could use their own contacts to help put the necessary talent and skills together.

The publisher should continue to focus on potential solutions until several paths have been found that can be fairly quickly explored and implemented. At that point the publisher will be ready to begin developing a 2,000 percent solution using the materials and questions in the next eight chapters of this workbook.

If the publisher cannot find several paths for word-of-mouth increases that seem to have high potential, the publisher would be wise to shift focus. That publisher should look instead for rapid paths for pursuing some of the other benefits that the nth degree analysis identified as being particularly valuable in chapter 3, such as pleasure that readers get from the book and, how many readers like the book which can help build positive word-of-mouth-based interest.

Questions to help your organization identify the opportunities for 2,000 percent solutions that can be implemented most rapidly.

As the publishing example showed, there can be many pathways to creating a 2,000 percent solution that improves a high profile benefit while enhancing many other benefits as well. With these questions, you will identify the opportunities that you want to use the eight-step process to develop.

1. If you had unlimited resources and skills, how would you create the most immediate and valuable benefits for your customers and end users?

Since no organization has unlimited resources and skills, this may sound like a hypothetical question. Our experience has been that there are usually ways of approaching the level of unlimited resources and skills by joining with other organizations and individuals whose positions are complementary to your own. By addressing “what” needs to be accomplished, then it becomes easier to consider “who” you need to work with to get the results you seek.

2. What resources and skills do you lack now to implement those ideas?

Make as extensive a list as you can to identify what is missing so that you can separately focus on how to fill in each gap.

3. How can you eliminate these resource and skill weaknesses through adding information and knowledge?

Your choices include hiring people who already are well informed and knowledgeable, helping those who work for you to add the information and knowledge that they are missing and involving suppliers and potential partners.

4. Which organizations are in the best position to implement the ideas you have for your organization?

Naturally, if you can access all the resources and skills from a few (or even one) organizations, there will be faster progress towards your goal. Otherwise, coordination with too large a group of other organizations can make implementation unusually difficult.

5. How can you interest those organizations in working with you, rather than one of your competitors?

This is an area where imagination helps. Organizations that are more capable than yours are already quite busy pursuing opportunities in which they do not need to share the rewards. Your opportunity needs to put some of their current opportunities to shame by comparison, even after you reap your expected reward from the new success. Obviously, this change in priorities is easier to do when the other organization is smaller than yours. The best opportunities for you, however, will probably require help from those who are much larger than you are. How can you make that organization’s involvement be simple, easy and enormously attractive?

In The Ultimate Competitive Advantage (Berrett-Koehler 2003), we outline a case history of how Goldcorp engaged most of the best mining geologists in the world to help identify Goldcorp’s best exploration possibilities. See pages 23-27. This example is also explained in chapter 11 of this workbook. How could you pursue a similar approach to add the resources and skills you need?

6. Which methods of acquiring the necessary resources and skills are most likely to succeed?

If it seems unlikely that you can overcome the obstacles to develop your 2,000 percent solution with some methods, you would be better off to focus on the methods where you now think you see your way clear to the solution.

7. How long will each of these more certain methods take?

In thinking about this question, assume that you will experience the usual setbacks that occur when any organization does something for the first time.

8. Including the time to acquire the resources and skills you need, which five ways of providing the most immediate and valuable benefits for your customers and end users can you probably complete first? Identify how long you think the total elapsed time will be.

Copyright 2005 Donald W. Mitchell