There are just two sorts of people. Which type are you?
I wonder if the business world splits into two sorts of people. There are those who read instructions and those who don't. There are those who prefer the creative approach and those who like structure. And there are those who like processes and those who don’t. The reason I mention this is because I was recently reading Impact, the magazine of the Market Research Society. In it there was an opinion piece by Rory Sutherland, the Vice-Chairman of Ogilvy UK. Rory is an original thinker, he writes beautifully and should you ever see him, he's a great presenter. In his opinion piece he said that he is sceptical about processes. He reminds us that important scientific discoveries often arise from "a messy mixture of happenstance, serendipity, reversals, blind alleys, red herrings and lucky guesses".
This caused me to think. We all know about Post-it Notes and Viagra originating from accidents in research projects. But how many of these brilliant left-field inventions are there compared with those that come from using structure? Rory is a creative and heads up an advertising agency. Creatives in advertising agencies know that breaking the mold can be very powerful. They also hate to be hemmed in by processes.
It is said that the chocolate chip cookie was an accident. Ruth Graves, the owner of a Massachusetts restaurant in the 1930s added pieces of chocolate to her cookie mix in the hope that they would melt and turn the batter a chocolate brown. The chips remained intact and the chocolate chip cookie was born as an accident. It's a great story to prove an exception to the rule. That is, recipes are a process which, if not followed fairly accurately, could lead to a culinary catastrophe. Most things that work do so because people have followed a process. Occasionally when this doesn't happen, we get a joyous result though more often when we don't follow the process it will be a disaster.
The reason I'm raising the subject is because frameworks are processes. They are recipes for business improvements. A certain amount of latitude is required in these recipes because each organisation that applies them will have different conditions. But the process is important because it results in a greater likelihood of success than simply winging it and trying something or anything to see if it works.
Creativity still has a place in frameworks. Choosing a framework out of the many candidates on offer requires some inspiration. Having chosen a framework you may have to be inventive in applying it to your company and your problem. And, of course, when the results start to come in, a certain amount of inspiration might be required to harness these to best effect.
So, no matter how attractive it may be to just dive in and get on with solving a problem, I urge you to think through the different frameworks that could be applied. I remember many years ago being on a training course where the trainer wrote on the flip chart a very large P and a small i - Pi. He turned to our group and said "What is this?". The brains in the group shouted various possibilities. "It is 3.14159" said one. "It is a mathematical constant" said another. Someone else said "It's the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter".
"No", replied our trainer. "The large P stands for planning and it is large because it is the most important thing you do when you face a problem. It is the thing you should spend most time on. The small i stands for implementation which, though important, will take much less thinking time than what you spend on planning. Get the planning right and implementation will be easy".
I think he's right. Good planning and a strong process will in most cases lead to a good result. Without it, you have to have a lot of faith in Lady luck.