This monday I posted ideas vs. opportunities in this space. The point was filtering all those ideas for the subset that are actually opportunities.
Overnight I got an email from Rick Holdren, chief evangelist for Medi-code, with this delightful additional story:
As a angel investor in over 25 startups I tell a different story: A few years ago Starbucks put suggestion boxes in all the Starbucks locations. They got 50,000 ideas. They implemented three of them.
I don’t know Rick, and I can’t validate his story. Anybody else know? Do you work at Starbucks and know the background story? Please comment.
And I’m not asking Rick, much less challenging him, because I’ve always said (and written, including on this blog) that stories have value whether they are literally true, or not. For example: Can stories be true when they’re false? Besides, I’m grateful for the story, why not use it for its illustrative value, instead of challenging it?
And this story, true or not, makes its point. Divide three executed ideas by the 50,000 and you get 1/150,000, which is 0.00000667. That’s .0007 percent. Seven hundredths of a hundredth of a percent. Sort of like a needle in a haystack. I hope you ideas to opportunities ratio is better than that, but you be the judge.
This is a great example of how quickly business assumptions change, and how badly we can screw up just by assuming the status quo. I just read Coffee Shops are Taking Wireless Off the Menu. It reports how coffee shops are turning away from free wireless. It’s an interesting commentary on changing times, but, much more important, a really good business reminder. The LA Times reports:
Coffee shops were the retail pioneers of Wi-Fi, flipping the switch to lure customers. But now some owners are pulling the plug. They’re finding that Wi-Fi freeloaders who camp out all day nursing a single cup of coffee are a drain on the bottom line. Others want to preserve a friendly vibe and keep their establishments from turning into “Matrix”-like zombie shacks where people type and don’t talk.
That shift could gather steam now that free Wi-Fi is less of a perk after coffee giant Starbucks stopped charging for it last month.
Put yourself in the place of coffee shop owners. Just yesterday, free wireless was a feature, a sign on the outside window, a customer lure. You just blink, and now it’s no wireless instead. Business climates, competitive environments, customer loyalties, and customer preferences changed in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, what worked isn’t working anymore.
Think about the rise and fall of direct mail marketing, Web banner ads, V8 engines, artificial sweeteners, TV dinners … we’ve all seen that happen so many times. In business, you keep your mind open. Revisit your assumptions as often as you can.
Because something similar is about to happen in your business. Or maybe it already did. Maybe what you think works, what used to work, isn’t working anymore.