Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

Added on by Alexander Osterwalder.

Innovators have to constantly think about the entire picture when conducting new business experiments. In my experience, corporate innovation teams tend to get lost in the details of testing activities. It’s important to never forget that testing is a means to an end. Learning is NOT the goal. Ultimately, it’s only about making progress towards a value proposition that customers want and a profitable business model that can scale.


When we help companies search, explore and validate new business ideas, I often see teams struggle with their weekly progress meetings. They often get lost in discussing testing activities conducted during the week or the learnings they gathered. Unfortunately, discussing testing activities is often a waste of time. Even the discussion of insights & learnings are a waste of time if they are not connected back to the big picture. And the big picture is about desirability (e.g. right customer, right value proposition?), viability (e.g. can we earn more than it will cost?), and feasibility (e.g. can we execute it?) of our business idea.

What I learned from all of the lean projects I was involved in is that it’s difficult for people to navigate between different levels of granularity:

  • Big picture (highest level of granularity): What is the value proposition and business model you believe will work?

  • Granular picture (lowest level of granularity): What are the hypotheses you tested? How did you do so and what did you learn?

  • Decisions & actions: How are we going to change our value proposition and business model based on what we learned? Are we making progress on the path from idea to validated business case or real business.

You should have a checkpoint every single week to connect the big picture, testing, and potential decisions and actions. Too many teams wait for too long before connecting the dots. They don’t keep the eye on the prize often enough and get lost in the granularity of testing and even learning activities. Some weeks you won’t learn enough; you may not change anything, but you consciously analyze if you are making progress from idea to business.

You have to ask this question on a weekly basis. Sometimes nothing will change.

The innovator and entrepreneur needs to navigate between these levels of abstraction all the time: you need to see the business model and the value proposition down to the hypothesis, experiment, and activity in the field on a constant basis.

Ultimately, you're not in it to test and to learn, you're in it to decide how you are going to make progress in terms of creating a value proposition and business model that works.