Ever been stuck? Just can’t move? Don’t know what to do? Most of us have been stuck at one point or another. The question is how to get unstuck. And the answer is to move. Yup. Just to move in any direction. A few years ago I shared my own getting unstuck experience on the pages of this blog. Today I’m going to share some thoughts from the entrepreneurship community, specifically from Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup.
The idea of a lean startup is that while planning is important, the only way you can learn is by starting with a simple, low cost version of your product or service, and getting feedback from customers. So, once you get feedback, you can iterate or improve your product BEFORE you’ve spent a ton of dough on developing the “perfect” product that isn’t so perfect.
Because entrepreneurs work in an incredibly uncertain environment, they need to test their ideas in a systematic, scientific way. In other words, the only way to figure out a way forward is to try something, learn from that trial, and make it better. Once you get customer feedback (sometimes called Customer Discovery), you can take that learning to either iterate, making small changes to improve the product, price or other aspects of the business, OR, you can pivot, making significant shifts that change major aspects of your business idea, OR you can start with a new idea, and begin the testing process over again.
So what does this mean for “getting unstuck” in situations that aren’t entrepreneurial? When we don’t know that answer to a perplexing problem, sometimes action will help us determine the next step. All too often I see people in stuck in a career crisis, not sure what to do next. They want to take a course, or get career counseling, or do anything except take action. Only action will get us to a place where we can evaluate our choices, to a place where we know whether a choice will work or not. The same thing happens within organizations trying to implement change. While I’m not against planning, sometimes planning becomes a convenient way to avoid the scary unknown. At some point, the organization just has to move forward by taking a risk and adjusting as they go.
Often getting unstuck is about doing something, anything, that will help you learn and iterate. It is about validating your choices, by testing them in real world situations. This is the ONLY way you will really know if they will work. So if you are stuck trying to figure out your next career step, trying to implement change in an organization, or trying to launch a new product or service, to quote Nike, “Just Do It”. You might fail, but you might not, and either way, you are closer to something that might work.