In 1980, a group IBM executives met to determine how they would respond to the new and rapidly growing personal computer market. IBM was a little late to the party - a few other companies had the jump on them and Apple just had their first IPO. So, IBM's executives started asking their engineers how long it would take for them to bring a PC to market. After a bunch of research and consultation across dozens of departments, they determined that using their normal processes it would take them 4 years for get a PC to market. Worse yet, they discovered that their internal workflow and processes were so complex and bureaucratic that it would take them 9 weeks just to ship an empty box! Obviously, the prospect of not being able to get a PC to market for several years was unacceptable. So, IBM chose to isolate a small group of engineers in Boca Raton, Florida and allow them to work outside of IBM's processes to develop the first IBM PC. Ultimately, this group of developers was able to pull it off; the first IBM PC launched in 1981, and the reign of PC dominance began. While IBM found a temporary solution to sidestep the issue, the empty box problem is the core issue - and it's still faced by the majority of businesses throughout the world. Bureaucracy, slow decision making, and inefficient workflow are an epidemic in corporations throughout the world. I'm going to tell you how it can be avoided, and how small, innovative companies can exploit this situation to their advantage.
The game has changed for entrepreneurs looking to either launch or reinvent a business. Tools and technology that were out of reach just a few years ago are now accessible, affordable, and easy to understand. This has enabled many companies to develop highly effective products with fewer costs and employees than ever before - and they're measurably more effective than their larger counterparts. So, the question is: How is this possible?
The first lesson we can learn from IBM is to Ignore the Real World. In the so-called 'real world,' the empty box problem is the norm, not the exception. The Real World is full of depressed nay-sayers who believe that the existing way is the only way. I don't buy that. The real world isn't a place... it's an excuse and a justification for not trying. This is TED - a conference about innovation and new thinking - I hate to say it, but this has nothing to do with the real world.
Now that we've gotten over the Real World hurdle, a lot of people assume that starting a business costs a ton of money - everyday we hear about start-ups raising millions in VC or Angel financing. Sure, there are always costs associated with building a business, but they're negligible... especially for web-based businesses. It used to be that whenever a company wanted a photo gallery on their website, they had to spend thousands of dollars building it from scratch. Now there are thousands of free widgets and apps that allow us to do that in seconds. A lack of money forces teams to find ways to earn money, instead of amusing themselves with projects that are just fun or interesting... use that to your advantage.
Do one thing well instead of many things just mediocre. During the Cold War, the US and Russia spent billions just trying to one-up the competition. It's not necessary to do that - in fact, many new businesses are making it a point to underdo the competition. The flip Cam is a perfect example of that. Take a look at all of the things the Flip Camp doesn't do - yet it's still the hottest selling consumer camera on the market. Simpler is better, and the Flip Cam proves it.
Finally, get something launched! It used to be that companies would spend years in development trying to create the perfect product. They would take guesses about what users would use, how they would use it, and what was most important. Instead, companies should build something small (like I alluded to earlier), launch it, monitor how consumers are using it, then refine it. This is why Facebook changes so often - they're watching how people use it, and are refining accordingly.
How many people have seen the show Kitchen Nightmares where Chef Gordon Ramsay goes around and fixes failing restaurants? I always thought there should be a show called Business Nightmares where someone would go around and streamline companies. Every episode of Kitchen Nightmares is exactly the same... the formula is very simple: Streamline the Menu. Do a few dishes exceptionally, instead of many dishes mediocre. Have People Communicate Effectively. Ramsay always appoints one team leader and forces everyone to communicate effectively. Set Proper Prices and Charge for Everything. Whether it's selling food or launching a dot com, you need something to sell, and you need to get paid for it. Build an audience by providing spectacular food and service. Tweak and refine the menu as you get feedback from customers. Give the customers what they want and they'll keep coming back. The formula is exactly the same for businesses.
So, don't hesitate - There are many talented people who haven't fulfilled their dreams because they over thought it, or they were too cautious, and were unwilling to make the leap of faith. The simpler, easier, and smaller the idea, the bigger it can become.
Nick Riotto's TEDxBU 2010 Presentation
Rethinking the Barriers to Entry The Smarter, Simpler, and Faster Way that Small Businesses are Making a Big Impact Presented by Nick Riotto – 829 Studios
The Flip Cam <ul><li>No Big Screen </li></ul><ul><li>No Photo-Taking Ability </li></ul><ul><li>No Tapes or Discs </li></ul><ul><li>No Menus </li></ul><ul><li>No Settings </li></ul><ul><li>No Video Light </li></ul><ul><li>No Viewfinder </li></ul><ul><li>No Special Effects </li></ul><ul><li>No Headphone Jack </li></ul><ul><li>No Lens Cap </li></ul><ul><li>No Memory Card </li></ul><ul><li>No Optical Zoom </li></ul>Source: Rework by Jason Fried p. 145
Don’t be a ‘Business Nightmare’ <ul><li>Streamline the Menu. </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate Directly & Effectively. Fire the ‘Donkeys.’ </li></ul><ul><li>Set Proper Prices & Charge for Everything. </li></ul><ul><li>Build an Audience & Grow Through Word-of-Mouth. </li></ul><ul><li>Tweak & Refine the Dishes. </li></ul>