7 billion people. 6 billion mobile connections.
What do we know based these two numbers? We know that mobile has brought (and continues to bring) instant information and connectivity to people in far reaching parts of the planet for the first time. It has created new methods for banking and it threatens to end the regular use of cash.
The possibilities of of mobile are far reaching and the claims of what it will do go even further. In spite of the certainty that mobile will drastically change our planet, the question is, “do we really know how those changes will unfold?” The answer is that existing roadmaps show where we will likely go, but the journey ahead will be a bumpy and uncertain one.
Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup writes that an entrepreneur is anyone operating in an environment of extreme uncertainty. So my latest pondering has left me wondering, is the whole field of mHealth is marred by extreme uncertainty?
One point Ries makes in regards to my field of planning and forecasting is the difficulty to predict the behavior of an industry that lacks a stable operating history and a relatively static environment. The mobile industry is anything but static. Mobile device activation and acquisition statistics are exponential, devices constantly change, and how consumers use them continues to evolve.
The underlying point Ries is trying to strike here is not railing against strategy, but advocating against large amounts of time spent in “the lab” testing your product. Experiments withdrawn from reality can be of little value in an uncertain environment because its difficult to know how it will be received by your customer.
There is of course a place for strategy and planning in business, but Ries is correct when stating that learning in such an environment needs to be validated to mark progress and reveal necessary changes in your strategy. Along the same lines, I found great value in Ries’s statement, [rather than hypothesizing how a customer will behave, or asking them how they will behave; experiment by providing them with a prototype to see how they behave when using it].
Extreme environments have not and will not eliminate a need for strategy. They merely remind us that the customer does know best and they must not be treated as the recipient of a product or service, but as a co-creator.
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
General Dwight Eisenhower