Important Isn’t Always First

Suppose you wanted to build a business.  It would be important to have an excellent business plan and hire great people to execute that plan.  Finding great candidates and getting them on board would, therefore, be important too.  But suppose you wrote up your plan and hired those people.  Where would they work?  How would people communicate with them under the auspices of your business?  How would you collect and distribute money?  Before you hired, you’d want to set up the legal entity that is your business, establish a domain name, and set up an email system.  Important isn’t always first.

Let me give you another example.  Suppose you come up with a great idea – a music player that can hold thousands of songs and can fit in your pocket.  In 1998, the first MP3 players came out, but it wasn’t until 2001 – when the first iPod came out – that they took off as consumer must-haves.  Why was that?  Because the iPod got it right – they married the player up to excellent software and fabulous aesthetics.  In this case, getting it right was more important than being first.  I’d argue, however, that the first thing one should do when designing a new product or service IS to make it great – I’m not a huge fan of the “get something out then pivot” school.  Fast is important to investors in a lot of cases.  First, create something excellent.

Many people fail to recognize that distinction in the heat of battle.  We all have a tendency to prioritize based on what seems important without  thinking as much about what needs to be first.  It is a frustrating process when what seems important is delayed by what needs to come first but that’s how we produce greatness right out of the box.

A final example.  If you were trying to write a book, you’d have to think about things like tone, tense, and even where to start.  Those things come before what’s important – the writing, the plot, the character development, and maybe even the ending.  The mechanical details of a lot of what we try to do might seem boring, but without them there is no foundation for what really is important both in business and in life.

Does that make sense?

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Filed under Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

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