Since time is short, we’ll skip the usual observations about how hard it is to innovate in a big company (if you’re interested in diving deeper into why large companies continually get disrupted by insurgent innovators, I recommend the writings of Clayton Christensen or listen to this HBS podcast).
Instead, I’d like to highlight some interesting thought exercises van Wulfen put forth. I’m a big fan of thought exercises, where you pose a provocative – and sometimes silly – question just to help stretch the boundaries of your mind.
Of the questions he posed, here are my favorites.
1. What would we do if our present business model would be forbidden?
2. What’s the ultimate dream of our customers?
3. What would we do if we had unlimited access to money and resources?
4. What would we do if we would start our company all over again?
5. What would my favorite comic hero from my childhood do?
That last one is kind of out there, but that’s the point (as long as you remember that Aquaman Sucks). What would you do if you had to change your business model?
Also, to connect the first two questions, how might a change in your business model be the dream of your customers? This is a serious question, and shouldn’t allow room for silly answers such as “the customers would want my service for free”, because you cannot sustain a business on “free”, thus going out of business and abandoning your customers, which is not their dream.
If you’re willing to take a few minutes, write down – either for yourself or in the comments section for others to read – some thought exercises you like to pose. What questions help you focus on the right objectives? What question helps you to see old problems in new ways?