Daria Nepriakhina

Minimum Viable Business Strategy

Responsive strategy or MVBS is a process to achieve positive change by shifting current state of things and the perception of the audience, employees or competition (a perceiver) towards strategically favorable for the business, which enables the company smoothly execute their policy.

At the core of it lays Overton window – the range of opinions the public would find acceptable. It’s a model to map out which opinions fit into an acceptable range, narrower than the pool of all probable options within the current state of things, market or company climate.

Below you can see its adaptation for sprint zero for the Responsive Strategy — opinion mapping. I’ve tested it with several teams and after a quick round of customer interviews (some even were done via phone) they were able to map it out according to general opinion (which matched after qualitative research).

The power of MVBS together with Overton window could potentially help innovators to bring disruptive ideas into reality faster, move the window of opportunity from unthinkable to popular (driverless cars, food-printing and more). It advocates for de-risking your strategy by making it more agile, sensitive and responsive to the perception and feedback of the audience. The ability to adjust and respond makes you stronger because you can always design your next move and implement your vision in smaller steps with higher certainty. Speed of response is the key. Agility makes you in charge of the situation, you take lead instead of preparing your next campaign for months. When you stay in constant interpersonal communication with your audience (internal and external), you turn strategy into a conversation, you are shaping it with the means that are available to you right at that moment, you act alive. While nothing is happening, everything becomes different. It is the most dangerous trap for long existing brands.

You say something out loud (after proper customer research), see how audience responded. Then implement what was received positively, adjust your message and persevere with the supporting actions that amplify your opinion shift. It is a process which consists of strategic spins and active people engagement. You are shaping the strategy all the time, it’s a living sculpture, which could be directed very well if you carefully listen, engage, and co-create it together with the influencers, employees, supporters and even detractors.

Try hypothesis-driven iterative approach to business strategy, where Lean Startup meets strategic spins for better prediction of the possible outcomes and reduction of wasted time and money. In action, what you do at first is changing audience perception about the subject (moving the window of opportunity or throwing out a fishing rod), then listen carefully to what your audience says, engage with them and amplify the voices that advocate your vision. Distill what people remember afterwards and convey that message to the audience again. Follow up with activities that support that perception you set up, actualizing your vision step-by-step. Repeat the same process, engage daily, reward your promoters, always.

The process is a continuous discovery and re-discovery of your audience opinion (customer development), where you test the grounds for your message, meanwhile extracting critical assumptions regarding:

  • Influencers and triggers: public people, marketing channels, internal power-connectors; specific actions, new regular activities, events, or externally formed circumstances, that could be influenced;
  • Stereotypes and strong opinions (the baseline), that prevail at that moment. Understanding the current situation leads to better messaging in your next campaign.
  • Implementing force, who can get access, resources, allies and support that are required for your mission;
  • Key activities, that support the perception of change you are advocating and steer the shift of the opportunity window with actions;
  • Message and channels: what you should be communicating on every step, where, when and why. Can you personalize your message to get it closer to your audience?
  • Action-Impact size + opinion baseline after the shift peak is over (that’s your strategic “AARRR”).
  • Behavior-Reward, or how should you reward your promoters and implementing forces for advocating your vision, giving their attention and time to you? In fact, these people are your channels and amplifiers of your message, they help your business grow. Make sure they get rewarded. What can you give them to turn them into your active continuous promoters?

The process:

To create a viable strategy, define the strengths and weaknesses of the current state, set the diagnosis and map the opinions of today. The shifts are steps composed of Listen-Build-Measure-Learn loops to get closer to the goal, the desired state. You are iteratively shifting a perception of things, an opinion of the Perceiver, that’s why interviews and frequent interactions (audience building) are crucial for success. If the Perceiver accepts opinions or values, that you are communicating (adopts, supports or feel sympathy for), he will likely act along with your goals. Perceiver sees things from his side, so you are working on a public, audience, sympathy building, which enables you to execute your strategy smoothly. You are setting the stage for your message to be heard.

What to do?

Identify key influencers of the current State. Test what causes change? Which opinion shifts would be favorable for your goal? Can we influence? Which assets do we have, which assets should we gain? Using interviews with “perceivers” identify a message you should be communicating, engage in discussions actively to steer public opinion, follow through and support your message with actions. Learn how could you reward people for supporting your cause, these people will become your best promoters and will amplify your message, pass on the impression, causing a chain reaction.

The logic behind responsive strategy is simple:

  1. Define your business goal and values which you would like to communicate to your customers (aiming to be adopted by them).
  2. Translate this goal into the future state of things: what you do, how the market behaves, which external and internal forces enable opinion shifts. What is the most important: whose opinion or what exactly (process, organization, situation, etc.) do you want to change? Mapping sheet is available, email me daria@ideahackers.nl.
  3. Then, using customer interviews, collect insights about the current situation, which activities are going on and what/who is steering it right now (who/what owns the most of your audience’s attention or who is in power to influence it the most?).
  4. Use Overton window example (above) to map out current common opinions and get insights on what is the state of things right now, where do you stand and where is the window of discourse at the moment.
  5. Match current SOT (state of things) to the future SOT (mapping sheet is available, just email me daria@ideahackers.nl) and from there on, it becomes easier to assume what would be the best (the most fortunate), the worstand the most probable scenarios to get to your goal.
  6. When you realize what are the three possible outcomes (using the first steps of “snowflake” method), you can understand the majority of potential risks, positive and negative forces that could influence the situation, and see critical points of your strategic inventory. You can address them on early stage, iterate on your strategic plan, find strong allies and adjust your activities for the bigger impact.

Responsiveness is a strategically important skill to have. Compare strategy to a battlefield. Without your army, well-aligned, well-prepared and knowledgeable, you can’t fight. Without knowing the geographic location and setting up the stage you can’t fight successfully either. Without constant monitoring and addressing the situation together with potential risks, you can’t win. These factors are crucial: company mindset, shared understanding on the vision and implementation, continuous monitoring and responsiveness in the matter of hours, days, but not months + knowing the field where you are fighting, surroundings and opinions that are out there, even in your enemy camp.

Now to wrap up, here is a tiny chat.

Grey_energy_company: You know, we are actually going green.

Grey_energy_company has changed the name to Green_energy_company1

Audience: No! wtf? You were grey for all these years, how come? We don’t trust you.

Green_energy_company1: we were grey, but we are going green. Trust us, look what we are doing right now. (image sent)

Audience: yeah, looks kinda cool.. Ok, so you are trying to go green *sceptical*.

Green_energy_company1: We were grey, but we are changing. Look at this, it’s our latest project (image sent).. And this is what other people say about us now (image sent)!

Audience: You are going green, indeed *joy*. We see it now, it’s great that you showed your effort.

Green_energy_company1: Yes, we are, look at some more (image sent), these are our real efforts in going green.

Audience: *OK*, now we can trust you 🙂 *happy*

*Audience added Green_energy_company1 as a friend.*

*Green_energy_company2 has joined the chat*

It’s a conversation, 24/7. And your job is to spot whose turn it is right now and who else has joined the chat. Listen and monitor carefully.

Contributing author Daria Nepriakhina is a Creator of Problem-Solution Fit Canvas, an Innovation Strategist/New Business Development/Target Group Researcher at IdeaHackers.nl, a sought-after Speaker, and a Rockstart Mentor. This is a republished post from February 1st. For more of her writing, follow her on medium.com here.

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