uring World War II, the
aerospace giant Lockheed created a remote incubator to tackle the war’s most critical tasks. German jet fighters had just appeared over Europe, and America needed a counterpunch. The mission was unbelievable critical, THE DEADLINE IMPOSSIBLY TIGHT. D
THE NEW REMOTE OFFICE was
intentionally located in a circus tent next to an exceptionally stinky plastics factory (to keep nosy people away). The strong smells that wafted into the tent made the Lockheed R&D workers think of the foul-smelling “Skunk Works” factory in Al Capp’s legendary comic strip Li’l Abner.
The small team inside the
stinky tent designed and built America's first jet fighter in just 143 days, and created a philosophy for rapid innovation which companies copy to this day. WHENEVER A COMPANY WANTED TO GO BOLD, SKUNK WAS OFTEN THE WAY INNOVATION GOT DONE.
TODAY, “GOING SKUNK” is often
used to describe an especially enriched environment that is intended to help a small group of individuals design a new idea by escaping routine organizational procedures.
Why is it better to
be a pirate? Why does the skunk methodology consistently foster such great results? And most important, what does this have to do with today’s entrepreneur and a desire to tackle the BOLD? TURNS OUT, PLENTY.
They are created to tackle
the Herculean, purposefully built around what psychologists call “HIGH, HARD GOALS.” It’s the difficult nature of those goals that is actually the first secret to skunk success. COMPANIES DO NOT GO SKUNK FOR BUSINESS AS USUAL.
If you want the largest
increase in motivation and productivity, then BIG GOALS lead to the BEST OUTCOMES. BIG GOALS significantly outperform small goals, medium-sized goals, and vague goals.
It comes down to ATTENTION
and PERSISTENCE — which are two of the most important factors in determining performance. BIG GOALS help focus attention, and they make us more persistent.
THE RESULT is... Because the
practice focuses attention & increases motivation, BY SETTING BIG GOALS WE’RE ACTUALLY HELPING OURSELVES ACHIEVE THOSE BIG GOALS. we’re much more effective when we work, and we’re much more willing to get up and try again when we fail. 1 2
WALL THE skunk works
off from the rest of the corporate bureaucracy. ISOLATION stimulates risk taking, encouraging ideas weird and wild, and acting as a counterforce to organizational inertia. ISOLATION MAY BE THE MOST IMPORTANT KEY TO SUCCESS IN A SKUNK WORKS.
ORGANIZATIONAL INERTIA IS the notion
that once any company achieves success, its desire to develop and champion radical new technologies and directions is often tempered by the much stronger desire not to disrupt existing markets and lose their paychecks. COMFORT ZONE A BIGGER, BETTER OPPORTUNITY
ORGANIZATIONAL INERTIA IS FEAR OF
FAILURE WRIT LARGE. IT IS THE REASON: Kodak didn’t recognize the brilliance of the digital camera IBM initially dismissed the personal computer America Online (AOL) is, well, barely online
Just as the successful
skunk works isolates the innovation team from the greater organization, successful entrepreneurs need a buffer between themselves and the rest of society.
In any organization the bulk
of your people will be climbing the hill they’re standing on. That’s what you want them to do. That’s their job. A SKUNK WORKS DOES A TOTALLY DIFFERENT JOB. It’s a group of people looking for a better hill to climb. This is threatening to the rest of the organization. It just makes good sense to separate these two groups.” ‘‘ ASTRO TELLER, DIRECTOR “GOOGLE X” LABORATORIES [X]
S K U N K
S E C R E T # 3 RAPID ITERATION (FAST FEEDBACK)
and this means having a
strategy in place to handle risk and learn from mistakes is critical. If you’re looking for a quick & dirty understanding, try the unofficial motto of Silicon Valley: “FAIL EARLY, FAIL OFTEN, FAIL FORWARD.” THE ROAD TO BOLD is paved with failure, X X X X X X
INSTEAD OF LAUNCHING A FINELY
POLISHED GEM, COMPANIES NOW: Release a “minimum viable product,” then get immediate feedback from customers, incorporate that feedback into the next iteration, release a slightly upgraded version, and repeat. Instead of design cycles that last years, the agile process takes weeks and produces results directly in line with consumer expectations. THIS IS RAPID ITERATION.
TRYING OUT CRAZY IDEAS means
bucking expert opinion and taking big risks. It means not being afraid to fail. Because you will fail. “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” — REID HOFFMAN, LINKEDIN FOUNDER
FOR MOST OF THE LAST
CENTURY, science focused on extrinsic rewards, that is, external motivators, “if-then” conditions of the “do this to get that” variety. WITH EXTRINSIC REWARDS, WE INCENTIVIZE THE BEHAVIOR WE WANT MORE OF AND PUNISH THE BEHAVIOR WE DISLIKE. For example, in business when we want to drive performance, we offer classic extrinsic rewards: bonuses (money) and promotions (money & prestige).
UNFORTUNATELY, AN EVER-GROWING PILE
OF RESEARCH SHOWS THAT EXTRINSIC REWARDS DO NOT WORK LIKE MOST SUPPOSE. Once people’s basic needs are no longer a constant cause for concern, extrinsic rewards lose their effectiveness and can CRUSH THE HIGH-LEVEL, CREATIVE, CONCEPTUAL ABILITIES THAT ARE CENTRAL to current and future economic and social progress.
Science shows that the
SECRET TO HIGH PERFORMANCE isn’t our Biological Drive (survival needs), or our Reward-and- Punishment Drive...
THESE THREE INTRINSIC REWARDS ARE
THE VERY MOTIVATORS THAT MOTIVATE US MOST. ...BUT OUR THIRD DRIVE— our deep-seated desire to direct our own lives, to extend and expand our abilities, and to fill our life with purpose.
Since Lockheed’s massive success, everyone
from Raytheon and DuPont to Walmart and Nordstrom has gotten in on the skunk game. ! In the early 1980s, Apple cofounder Steve Jobs leased a building behind the Good Earth restaurant in Silicon Valley, stocked it with twenty brilliant designers, and created his own skunk works to build the first Macintosh computer.
THE SKUNK APPROACH is one
of the most successful in modern history. The same philosophy can be applied to any business or entrepreneur looking TO GO BOLD. TO ACCOMPLISH THE IMPOSSIBLE.
BOLDis a visionary roadmap
for people who believe they can change the world— and offers invaluable advice about bringing together patterns and technologies to help them do it. — PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON Order BOLD Today!