Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten, Inc.
You’ve got an idea for something new. What should you do? Should you hold back and plan or get started and learn on the fly?
The answer is: yes.
Both those things are critical to the successful launch of a new idea. While they seem to be in conflict, in fact, they represent the natural tension that exists in any new endeavor.
This topic is especially meaningful as we step into the new year and look to build back and regain momentum after a trying 2020. Last year saw major disruptions to business around the world, pressing many companies to come up with new ways to approach unprecedented challenges.
Having a standard way in which you evaluate and launch new ideas will help you manage the post-pandemic idea rush and, ultimately, shape the world we live in. Let me share my standard approach to a plan of action here.
The only thing that won’t help you get a hit is standing still and watching the ball sail by.Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten, Inc.
Standardize your plan of action
When I have a new business idea, I start by analyzing the situation. I analyze the size of the market. I estimate the potential size of the business. I consider the risks, both internal in my own company and external factors that may affect me.
I then consider key issues that may impact my business idea now and in the future. I look at regulatory issues that may come into play. I consider the state of the supply chain. I also think about how the new business will be marketed and how that connects to other marketing my company may already have underway.
At this stage I weigh the pros and cons. What benefit could this new idea bring to my company and, more importantly, to society at large? What are the potential downsides? I also think hard about how I feel at this moment, on the cusp of something new. Am I excited and enthused by the idea? And how will I feel if I do not make this move? What will my mindset be then?
If I decide to move forward, I set a plan for execution and I take action. The execution plan is very important. My preference is always to start small and look for growth. If we see the evidence that the business concept will work in the proof of concept stage, then we go big.
Executing at the same time as thinking, learning and improving
I have been through this process many times, to the point where I have it well organized in my mind. I can move through it in a matter of days. It is a combination of thinking and action. I am executing my idea and thinking and learning about it at the same time.
Taking a launch-and-learn approach
Our first venture into the mobile space in 2014 was as an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) — where we did not own the network itself but offered a service to consumers based on use of networks operated by others. This allowed us to offer a valuable service to our users and, at the same time, build up our understanding of the mobile business.
Of course, this approach doesn’t only apply to the tech industry. Look at Hollywood. In an effort to cope with closed movie theaters and lost ticket sales, it has begun launching new products in a combination of theaters and live streaming.
In the medical world, we see physicians testing telemedicine options. These are big steps for both industries. But instead of keeping the project under wraps during a research phase, they are moving forward and using the launch as part of the learning process.
This process requires practice. And patience. To keep myself on track, I sometimes think about it in terms of batting average. No baseball player succeeds 100% of the time when they step up to the plate. After years of refining my process, I do feel like my batting average is pretty high. Sometimes we strike out, but we also hit a few grand slams as well.
My point here is that sometimes we fail and that’s okay, but if there’s a chance, we should try. Try, test, learn, systemize. The only thing that won’t help you get a hit is standing still and watching the ball sail by.
At Rakuten, our process starts with our core principles. As a company, we are deliberately reconnecting to our core principles. Every week, we are holding an internal reading and Q&A session to explore a principle from Business-Do, the book I wrote to capture these core principles for success. These are turbulent days in which we are called upon to make important decisions that may affect the health and safety of those around us — we all need core principles to help guide us.
For more Business-Do insights, click here.