Anything You Want by Derek Sivers – “Experiment. Go!”

Experimenting is the key to innovation success.

The new book Anything You Want by Derek Sivers is worth a read (there’s tons of information about the book, and some great videos here). The book tells lessons that Sivers learned while running his website CDBaby. My first thought in reading the experiences of one person is “your mileage my vary” – but Sivers makes some excellent points that do generalise, including a couple about experimenting.

One is that whatever business model you have is simply one option of many possible ones.

He tells the story of the voice coach that he had when he was singing in a band. He’d have Sivers sing a song an octave higher, then an octave lower, then fast, slow, like Tom Waits, etc. After doing all of that there was always a choice about the best way to sing each song.

It’s the same for business models. Here is how Sivers puts it:

I’m taking an entrepreneurship class now. I’ve never studied business before.

We analyzed a business plan for a mail-order pantyhose company. Like all business plans, it proposed only one plan.

After reading the whole thing, I felt like saying things my old voice teacher would have said:

  • “OK, make a plan that requires only $1000. Go!”
  • “Now make a plan for ten times as many customers. Go!”
  • “Now do it without a website. Go!”
  • “Now make all your initial assumptions wrong, and have it work anyway. Go!”
  • “Now show how you would franchise it. Go!”

You can’t pretend there’s only way to do it. Your first idea is just one of many options. No business goes as planned, so make ten radically different plans.

This is good advice for business plans, and it’s good advice for implementing any new idea.

The more ways you work out how an idea might be executed, the more likely it is that you’ll stumble upon a good plan once your idea hits reality.

Remember – every part of a business model is actually a hypothesis. You should figure out how to test each part.

Here’s another bit from the book:

If it’s not a hit, switch from Derek Sivers on Vimeo.

Watch the whole thing, but here’s the key quote:

We’ve all heard about the importance of persistence, but I had misunderstood.

Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working.

We all have lots of ideas, creations and projects. When you present one to the world, and it’s not a hit, don’t keep pushing it as is. Instead, get back to improving and inventing.

Innovation is about experimenting. This story from Sivers is a story about experimenting – keep trying things to improve them. You show persistence with the experiments, not just by sticking with an idea that’s not working.

“Experiment. Go!”

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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