On 27th March the team agreed that their three top priorities in terms of markets that they were aiming at should be children, women and the third world (the last came soon to be called ‘philanthropy’). These had been whittled down and refined from a shortlist of four: ‘education, charity, women and leisure’. The decision was reached at Javier’s instigation to help the team move forwards at a time when it was wrestling with which idea to choose. As Joanna had been saying from early on, focusing on their market would bring a different perspective from focusing on an idea.

It wasn’t that simple, though. Every time they got close to narrowing down the options further they encountered the same sort of problem. The next day (28th) they held a meeting to discuss these three markets and I felt what you might call, if you were that way inclined, ‘the energy in the room’ ooze away. Just as it had, according to the team, when they’d had an earlier out-of-the-office brainstorming session about ideas with Sally Bibb and David Laird. Exactly the same thing would also happen a few days later at a further meeting held to explore these markets. For now, here are some exchanges from the discussion they had on 28th March:

Tom: ‘I didn’t actually vote for kids.’
Stewart: ‘I put kids in as third because there wasn’t anything else.’

Or again:

Stewart (summarising): ‘These three ideas are in the category of good – doing good for people.’
Tom: ‘I think they’re more in the category of doing.’
Stewart: ‘If categories are not the way to cut it down, what is?’

Or again:

Ludwig: ‘What do we want? To have a fully fledged site… a service… or what?’
Mike: ‘Hard to say what we want without knowing the first step.’

Asked by Javier how to say in one word how they each felt at the end of this unproductive discussion they said:

Steven: ‘Frustrated.’
Mike: ‘Frustrated.’
Joanna: ‘Stuck.’
Ludwig: ‘ I want more openness, less tiptoeing. There’s no spark.’
Tom: ‘Bullish’
Stewart: ‘Enjoying the argument.’

Asked if they all shared an ultimate objective, Stewart responded immediately, ‘No.’

Mike followed up: ‘We don’t have a shared view of what the problem is that we would solve for each of the three areas (children, women and the Third World).’

Later in the conversation, Javier asked the simple, but acute, question: ‘Why would you want to make kids cleverer?’. Stewart didn’t blink before answering, ‘I dunno’. And I [silently] agreed with him.

Always I felt that becoming–whale-of-an-idea was getting in the way. Moving forwards meant accepting that they’d got the right idea. But they couldn’t be sure that they had. Was it ‘The-One-Big-One’ as
Riddley Walker would say?

So Javier invited them each to find a situation they were so angry with that they really wanted to change it. As luck would have it they found it the following week.


Looking for quantum, not incremental, innovation; faced with multiple possible markets and ideas; team members inevitably having different views – how to harness the drive and enthusiastic commitment needed to push the project through when they were all perfectly clear that they could just as well be working on an entirely different idea?

Jeff Gordon Energy drink: Shawn Zehnder Lea

No comments: