Here’s some great insight on the evolution of business plans and business planning, from Joi Ito, Director of MIT’s MediaLabs:
Ito urges us to follow a compass rather than a map. Instead of planning out every exact points before you start, allow yourself to make the decisions you need as you go in the general direction of where you need to be.
I don’t see that as not planning, but rather better planning, active planning, planning that includes regular course review and course corrections, exactly as in my last book on business planning, The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan. It goes to my favorite business plan quote, from Dwight Eisenhower:
The plan is useless, but planning is essential.
This is what I see as the best kind of evolution for planning. Plan, review, revise, plan, review, revise. Keep the plans simple, just big enough, and organic.
The Ito quote is from Instead of futurists, let’s be now-ists: Joi Ito at TED2014 on the TED blog. The talk isn’t available yet, but the blog post has a fascinating summary. I enjoyed the story of how he invents the term “B.I.”:
Remember before the internet? Ito calls this period ‘B.I.’ In this stage of the world, life was simple and somewhat predictable. ‘But with the internet, the world became extremely complex. The Newtonian laws that we so cherished turned out to be just local ordinances … Most of the people who were surviving are dealing with a different set of principles.’
That leads to another great insight about startups and business planning for startups:
In the B.I. world, starting a business had a clear timeline: says Ito, you hired MBAs to write a business plan, you raised money, and then you built the thing you wanted to build. But in the A.I. world, the cost of innovation has come down so much that you start with the building—and then figure out the money and business plan. ‘It’s pushed innovation to the edges, to the dorms rooms and startups, and away from stodgy organizations that had the money, the power and the influence.’
That’s what we used to call “right on.” Well said.