in business building

Firm on the vision, flexible on the details

“Firm on the vision, flexible on the details” is one of my top mental-models in the context of creating delightful customer innovations. “Firm on the vision, flexible on the details”, is another way of saying “Many roads lead to Rome”.top-view-photography-of-roads-2440013

This particular mental model is useful when the customer struggle has been defined, you’ve identified what customers would ideally want (benefits), and you are ideating and starting to progress potential solutions. An example of benefits may be: Convenience, lower cost, ability to do the job on the go, reliability, and other.

In my work with Enterprises, Small firms, and Startups alike, I often see my clients putting significant energy into one particular solution, then isolating it and moving it forward to the build phase. As they evaluate their solution, the focus on the features and delivery of the solution, sometimes leading them to abandon the idea. In the early phases of moving from benefit to solutioning (the delivery model), I observe my clients struggling with identifying ways to quickly test with customers, often due to them fixated on one particular delivery model (example: “It’s a mobile app. It will take us 9months to go live. We can’t test before then”). I’ve seen clients test their solutions with customers, sometimes resulting in less than convincing feedback which results in them killing the initiative.

The power of “Firm on the vision, flexible on the details”, is that it fixates on the benefit vs the delivery model. Example: Customers can do their job on-the-go > It’s a mobile app that you can use as long as you have your phone with you. Instead of focusing on “let’s build an app”, focus on “enabling customers to do the job while on the go”. Fixation on the benefit enables you to think about other delivery mechanisms that accomplish the same benefit, resulting in higher likelihood that you will identify the right delivery model for each particular customer need, while enabling much quicker testing to see if your solution benefit would make sense.

Being firm on the vision, but flexible on the details is an important mental model in my innovation work. I apply it to help my clients develop a larger universe of solution ideas, move more quickly and cheaply to test hypothesis behind their solutions, and ultimately improve the ROI of their innovation efforts.

Next time you define solutions for your customer, try to challenge yourself to stay firm on the vision while being flexible on the details.