Too Much Planning is Not Helpful

The World War II leader and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower used to say, “Plans Are Worthless, But planning Is Everything!” This seemingly paradoxical quote holds true in innovation programs as it does in wars. Planning is good and useful but planning for an event that has not happened before – be it a war or innovation, is limited by definition – and for obvious reasons. Only a limited part of what the actual situation could feel like, can be anticipated. The rest has to be figured out on the fly. There is no alternative.

Spending vast amount of time and effort in planning exposes us to the same risks that emphasizing on signing off on requirements does. They give us a false sense of confidence about our knowledge of the actual problem leading to a lack of initiative in investigating it further or planning how to build the solution. Both assumptions are premature and often inaccurate.

It is often unrealistic to expect that the first iteration of your solution will be a runaway success, because most often there are new insights and new complications that we may have missed . Instead, it is always better to fail fast and iterate. Learnings from failures help get a better understanding of the problem and increase effectiveness the next time around.

Planning the known aspects, however, is always useful. These could include logistics, software and hardware procurement, etc. But even here, it is better to anticipate that some on-the-fly changes might be necessary. They usually are.

It is important that the innovation programs try to fail fast and be iterative. It is important to have a bias in favor of action.