How to Balance Innovation and a Practical Outlook in Being an Entrepreneur
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The middle path, the tightrope, the yin and the yang; all great representations advocating the importance of having a balance in life. Nature too is a great preacher of balance in our world, always in constant flux of correcting and adjusting levels of life at all scales. Balance is beauty and without it we are always pulled towards the extremities and just as it is with nature, entrepreneurship too is a constant pursuit for balance. Balance between cost and profit, too many emails and time to think. Innovating and the constant pursuit to reinvent the wheel can be an endless pit but practicality on the other end helps bring a sense of balance. In our day and age where innovation is the buzz word on the street, achieving it with practicality is an important lesson that cannot be ignored.
Innovation comes from a thorough understanding and experimentation in the field of intervention and here the juxtaposition of design is an important element. Design adds another dimension to innovation and one cannot be separated from the other. To achieve a beautiful product; innovation by design has to be balanced with a practical outlook. To have style along with utility can lead to great energy and in the end to great new ideas. Architecture is a great example where the two energies come together. Design of a space has to be married with the application of those spaces. If a beautiful space is too cold or uncomfortable seating or has water seeping in due to poor detailing, then the design ends up being pointless and a waste of an effort. In the business of being in business one has to be careful at every step and always keep a sense of balance in mind. This can be difficult because of the many distractions that keep occurring but the following three rules if kept at the back of the mind, should help keep a balance.
Charting the Non-negotiables
When laying out your business plan, know the absolute non-negotiables of the business. Is the technology the most important? or is it the price point? or perhaps it is the design of the product? James Dyson of Dyson company wanted to create a sleek vacuum cleaner that would not be dependent on changing filters, would be technologically superior and was one that would manoeuvre much more easily around the house than a conventional vacuum cleaner. He carried out a series of experiments over five long years in his garage to create his version of the vacuum cleaner. Over those five years he never negotiated down those goals and all the while he was clear design, technology and a sense of practicality would be what would make his product the most successful and that is a large reason why the company reported a revenue of over 4 billion in 2018.
Know Your Costs
To create a product designed to be better than most or perhaps be the only one in the market requires R&D and more importantly time. Quite often it also needs people, more than just yourself and all of this requires funds. Innovation can often come at a cost and one has to, with prudence, decide if the cost makes sense. Here too a balance is needed where you should know what your non-negotiables cost and stick to your guns.
The Last 10% is a Gut Call
Design, costs, financial modelling, testing can take up eons of time and one can get lost in all the experimentation and analysis. These aspects can help get you to 90% of the way in taking a decision, the last 10 is a gut call. At some point one has to decide when to go to market and that really comes down to taking a leap of faith. This is always the toughest decision and in many ways also the easiest one. If you are comfortable with having checked the boxes of your non negotiables where your innovative product has a great use and have managed your cost then you would be quite close to achieving that delicate balance and nothing should stop you going forward. All you have to do is keep walking the tight rope.