Traditions and best practices are built over many, many repetitions (weeks, months, years…) but it all started as something new. While the idea of waiting for many iterations to pass seems unattractive, Lao Tzu solved this 2,600 years ago when he said: The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. From the perspective of a Founder I’m interested in what drives that single next step.

I’ve had the opportunity to take inventions, creations and innovations from non-traditional proposals to common best practices in different industries: marketing, publishing, investments and consulting. One of the most important lessons I’ve discovered in these 9+ years is to be prepared for the first question in everyone’s mind: Who should drive? (Who should lead?) Because meanwhile an innovation is not yet adopted, control over every task is not pre-defined as it is in a traditions and best practices.

The most common answer I’ve come upon is that “it depends on the situation”. I respectfully disagree. If control on who drives is situational then we depend on the circumstances to know whee we are going. This seems reactive from a Founder’s point of view. To depend on the context is to depend on something outside myself or my organization, something that I’m not sure shares the same values and vision as I or the organization live. That’s response is definitely not strategic and corresponds to a tactical decision

Strategy is everything I do in the absence of the other part. Tactics is all I do in the presence of the other part. 

There is a different approach, one that comes from the Founder’s point of view, that it is decided before the engagement with other parts (including the context) and therefore is Strategic. It is so subtle that it is difficult to see but easy to understand once you detect it. In every non-traditional innovations who drives will always, always be The Destination. As long as there is a destination that convinces all stakeholders, who takes the wheel will drive towards that destination. In other words without that destination, there wouldn’t be a need for a driver. 

When a destination is set the circumstances are polarized, meaning that some circumstances will be favorable in getting us closer to the destination and other won’t. We can’t see this until we have a destination. Setting the destination is the most important action one can take when pushing something new into the market.

The game then is, to convince the rest of the stakeholders of the best destination for everyone. Plus, once you’ve started and need to make adjustments along the way you just fix the course toward the destination. Also, once the initiative becomes a bigger organization there will be multiple simultaneous initiatives that can be approved or net depending on the aligned towards the Destination. If you want to make an innovation successful, agree to a convincing destination. The rest is situational.

Illustration

It is interesting to understand that Route 66 became a destination in itself for people all around the globe. A road connecting many places became a place to be. What happens when the road is also the destination? When we are managing innovations the road might be so amazing we could be tricked into treating it as the destination, distracting us from where we need to reach.

Being focused on the route is like going in circles forever, it doesn’t end… You can’t tell how far you are because you can’t distinguish the positions in relation to a start and an end. Being focused on the destination requires to reach and end to start something new, and you can distinguish between positions.

I bring this image up as a reminder that the destination gives meaning to the road and not the other way around. The destination is not to be confused with the road, even though both are important and necessary to reach each results. 

Application

Before I negotiate the price of a service I first mention what the client’s goal is and how my experience can help us get there. By doing this I can explain how adjustments in the price can delay or deviate us from that destination. In order to do this, the client has to understand why my service is the best option to get him to the destination. If for any reason we change the destination, then all else should be adjusted.

If a the end of the conversation the decision is to change the price while not considering a destination like: product quality, number of new users, etc. Then that is the real destination of who I’m negotiating with. In order to get my price back in my target I need to discover what his/her destination is behind negotiating a price reduction. Maybe it is budget restrictions or maybe it is a way to show a quick win. Once I know this I can present an offer that achieves the destination and my target price at the same time.