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Embracing the ‘Why Not?’

Whenever you’re undertaking a prioritization or decision making exercise as to what growth initiative to undertake next, fully vetting the ‘why’ behind something is in many ways a given. Why is it that we want to undertake this initiative? Is it that there’s a lot of upside? Is it the safe move? So on and so forth. It’s well understood that it’s important to get to the root as to why you’d like to undertake a particular experiment.

What’s forgotten, however, is an equally important question: ‘Why not?’

Why is it that we’re not doing this? Is there a strong enough reason as to not pursue this? A common logical reply to these types of remarks tends to be that there’s too much risk or the probability for success is too small.

On the risk front, however, so long as you’re not betting the business and the initiative can be scaled back, the risk involved in any initiative can be properly capped. On the probability side of things, it all depends on your wider portfolio of experiments. It’s important to always have a healthy combination of initiatives that set you up for steady growth today that are perhaps on the safer side of things while also making bolder investments in breakthrough opportunities of tomorrow.

In any case, it’s important to complement logic with creativity.

What I really appreciate about asking myself and the team ‘why not’ is that it can be incredibly liberating. It can open up possibilities that perhaps wouldn’t live up to the standard lengthy vetting process to get to a rock solid ‘why.’ By consequence, you can open yourself up to new opportunities. And even new combinations of new opportunities. Opening up the scope of what’s possible is often times the first step toward exciting breakthroughs.

If it’s high growth that you’re optimizing for, we have to make sure to consider two key important variables. On the one hand you have the probability for success and then on the other you have the upside potential. The product of those two variables should give you an indication of what initiative can provide you the right combination of upside and the likelihood of achieving that upside.

When we consider these two factors, you quickly realize that there are a multitude of ways to achieve the same prioritization outcome. In theory, a low upside-high probability (10 x 0.1 = 1) experiment can yield the exact same result as a high upside-low probability one (100 x 0.01 = 1). Context is what ultimately drives which experiment you should eventually opt for (assuming that you can’t undertake both at the same time).

However, the point is that it’s not a good idea to live on either end of the spectrum being a sheepish growth team that only looks at incremental gains that in conjunction won’t move the needle or being overly aggressive that solely goes for the big wins whereby you’re risking today’s growth for a chance at tomorrow’s.

It’s about finding that right balance between left-brain and right-brain thinking. Asking ourselves both ‘why’ and ‘why not?’ Being both logical and creative to identify ways to increase growth.

What do we have to lose? Why not?


This article was originally published on Brian Park’s blog. Brian is one of Rockstart’s Web & Mobile mentors. 

Image credit: Peter Reed 


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