The Patience Of Einstein

Written by Joe Driscoll

November 23, 2009

When you get a new idea, its hard not to be excited about it. When you develop a new product, its natural to want to get it to market as soon as possible. While new ideas need advocates, there is also a need for prudence.

Albert Einstein, the great physicist known as the father of the modern era, developed a number of new and exciting ideas. One became known as the Theory of Relativity, a development that changed the world as we know it.

Despite the scientific acclaim for his work, Einstein refused to accept his own equations as valid until they were verified by empirical observations. For his Theory of Relativity he designed three specific tests to prove his new ideas about time and motion. Einstein believed all three of the tests needed to be successfully completed to fully validate his work.

It might be said that Einstein “test marketed” his new “equation” to be certain that it could withstand the rigors of his “customers”, the scientific community. Today, in both the business and scientific community, it is all too frequent that the originators of new ideas, so certain of their validity and so financially pressed, rush them to the marketplace with premature announcements and claims.

The physical proofs that Einstein demanded required certain natural conditions that were not immediately available. No instantaneous gratification here. It was five years before the last of Einstein’s verification criterion were met for the Theory of Relativity.

The essence of the methodology that Einstein applied to validate his equations can be successfully applied in your business. Accompanying the development of new products, plans, and programs, there should be established what Einstein referred to as “verifiable empirical observations”. In other words, make sure the darn thing does what it’s supposed to do before you go to far.

That all seems simple enough. But “verifiable empirical observation” indicates that there are too many “things” out there that don’t do what they’re supposed to do. If it happens in your business, it will cause a lot of unnecessary problems.

Its hard to be both an advocate and a skeptic of your own new idea, we’re not all Einsteins. There is a natural tendency to become so enthused with your own new idea that you want to rush its implementation. The “pride of authorship” combined with the economic pressures to earn a return on your investment can become a powerful force.

However, your new idea will be best developed by an advocate that brings it to maturity prudently. Taking the time to “prove” a product by establishing specific performance and sales objectives for it provides a number of long lasting benefits.

Some products that have been rushed to market should have had their introduction slowed down sufficiently to have been introduced to broader markets in more optimal condition. In addition to the direct costs, such as rejects, returns, and service, associated with premature product introductions, there are a great many indirect costs arising from the damage to morale, reputation, and confidence..

Other products that have long languished in mediocrity should have been mercifully terminated. Einstein held out for five years for all three proofs to validate his theory. There are few businesses that wouldn’t benefit from eliminating a product or service that hasn’t met its expectations. The problem is that the expectations were never reduced to objective standards and there is a reluctance to admit failure. Learn to cut your losses.

Other, perhaps, valuable and potential lucrative products that were prematurely terminated might have been given the developmental time they needed. Without objective standards to prove a new product or idea, early, but tangential negative feedback can make new product advocates reluctant to champion a new product. It is not unusual for a product developed by one company to be abandoned and later made a success by another company.

Organizational structures have a tendency to grow cumbersome over time. When you get an idea that you think will improve your organization, you want to implement it immediately. The changes are made with enthusiasm and optimism, but the “equations” aren’t always held up for verification by empirical observation

Organizational structures get changed to met specific needs. If the changes that were implemented don’t produce the desired results or no longer meet the current needs, they should be held invalid and reversed.

To be an “Einstein” means more than just coming up with bright new ideas. It means having the patience to verify the value of those new ideas, products, and plans. Because its your business, be an Einstein.

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