Focus on what if it succeeds
Do not plan prematurely plan for contingencies and split your focus.
Occasionally when you develop new initiatives, you might want to plan contingencies in case of failure.
Putting effort into saving failures is often misguided and a waste of time. Planning for failure means preemptively putting in the effort to save a failure.
First of all, splitting effort between the initiative itself and the contingency by default makes it worse. Instead, your primary focus should be on its execution.
Secondly, you shouldn’t be planning on how to make an initiative succeed at all costs. You’re looking to discover something that will work, not to make the thing you imagined work. So, hanging onto a specific course of action isn’t particularly useful. If it fails, it’s safe to move on to something different or to make an adjustment.
Planning for contingencies might also mean that you do not have faith in the initiative in the first place. In this case, you might want to reconsider doing it in the first place.
If the initiative is a “do or die”, there’s no point in thinking about what to do if you fail. It’s more productive to put all your energies into making sure you execute with the best chance of success.
The book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” also presents a similar lesson. It says that CEOs should not play the odds. They should believe that there is an answer and they must find it. Then, they should focus and make the best moves given the situation.
A related issue is a futility of thinking about what you might do if an industry leader comes after you. First of all, the chance that they might is low. Second, if they do, you’re most likely dead regardless. But, if you do well, you might become attractive enough for them to acquire you rather the outright destroy you.
We fell into this trap when we planned on integrating with another company. Their users were getting “preferred pricing”; we imagined a backup scenario in which we use the built feature to sell preferred pricing packages ourselves. In the end, not only did the partnership not work out, but we also didn’t make use of it for a new initiative either.
Ecommerce and cross border trade specialist
Previous Keep track of why decisions were made and features built
- What you don't build is nearly as important
Because that means you didn't spend time on something that isn't useful.
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
In particular, the chapter "CEOs don't play the odds"
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