Counter to what we learn from the tech community, focusing on speed may have too many pitfalls. Here are three ways to avoid that risk.

Three Steps to Take Now

As a leader, what should you do?

First, let two questions be your operational guide for new technology initiatives:

“If we are wrong, how quickly can we fix this and at what cost?” If the speed and cost for fixing errors and miscalculations are acceptable, by all means proceed with agility, aim to be first to market, or launch minimally viable products. Otherwise, steel your backbone and demand thoughtfulness.

“What’s our policy for testing the core idea at each stage?” Establish the rigorous regimen of testing during development. If the core idea fails in a complex, uncertain, and ambiguous environment, the full-fledged idea inevitably will. If the core idea succeeds, the initiative will have earned the right to advance further.
Second, emulate great leaders and craft simple messages making your case. Ask people to justify agility when five-year grandiose development plans are no longer the norm. Tell stories of great innovators who weren’t first to market. Remind people that the idea of minimally viable products originated in efforts to quickly find and fix bugs in stand-alone consumer software. Explain why these ideas are less relevant for apps, distributed software, and software-impregnated hardware. When you think people understand, repeat the messages again.

And third, truly understand that while the failure to be in tune with time will be a failure to lead, doing the right thing may endanger your job. Persist anyway! Goldilocks-like, search for the “just right” middle between speed and tardiness. Speed that impedes thoughtfulness is worse than tardiness: While tardiness can hurt your own institution competitively, excessive speed may land you on history’s list of incompetent business executives. The pain of change will be real, and the value of your foresight may only be apparent when your company escapes the mayhem that others, steered by lesser executives, can’t.

Abandoning the three ideas won’t slow down innovation. Apple’s new products and services aren’t chock-full of bleeding-edge technology, and yet Samsung has been playing catch-up for years. The Note 7 was supposed to make Samsung the innovation pacesetter, but it did the opposite.

Thoughtfully and efficiently created ideas generally outperform slipshod ones. Aspiring leaders will do well to remember this in an increasingly interconnected digital world.
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