Seed. Incubate. Grow. Harvest. The business of innovation and entrepreneurism is full of farming and gardening analogies. This implies that commercial success is about finding a single idea (seed) that has the potential to grow into a profitable business (crop) that we can then harvest. As farmers, our strategy is to provide resources (sunshine, water, fertilizer) to a seed that already has the DNA of success. We are not adding to the DNA of the seed, but rather nurturing and facilitating its germination and growth.
It is an interesting analogy, but I can think of no examples where it actually works that way. In business, I have never witnessed a single idea go from seed to magnificent oak. Companies are not grown. Businesses are built piece by piece, brick by brick, idea by idea, and employee by employee. Each addition brings its own DNA which in turn changes the very fabric of the whole. That novel new ‘seed’ idea may be the cornerstone of a new business concept, but ultimately it is only one piece of the puzzle.
Our task as designers and builders of businesses is much like a child building a Lego structure. Something sparks an idea (often a new Lego piece that we imagine will allow us to build something totally new) and we develop an image in our mind of what we want to build and how we might play with it once built. We usually go right from idea to the building process by laying out all the Lego pieces in front of us, searching for the necessary blocks to build. We pick out the first pieces and then starting building. We pick more pieces and build a little more. Inevitably we get to a point where the piece we really want isn’t there or it doesn’t quite work, and so we disassemble things a bit and try again. Eventually we get to a point where we have a structure that looks a little like we’ve imagined, but never exactly.
When we design and build businesses within the Trivaris group, we follow a building process. It always starts with a ‘fuzzy’ idea about a product or a business, and we imagine how the product or business might create value. We think about what pieces we would need to put it together: technologies, channels, partners, expertise, financing, etc. Which pieces do we have, which can we develop ourselves, and which pieces can we acquire or develop partnerships for? And then, assuming we have most of the foundational pieces in our grasp, we begin the building process. As we start to build, we inevitably discover the pieces don’t fit together quite like we imagined. We take a step back and re-jig the design accordingly. Eventually we get to a point where we have a product and a business. Eventually we get to a point where we have a business that looks a little like we’ve imagined, but never exactly.
Ty J. Shattuck,
Follow on Twitter: @tyshattuck