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What if we did nothing?

I’m fortunate I don’t get many work calls on holiday.

I did last week. On the beach on the Isle of Wight. The line was awful. While Samsung’s latest smartphone can recognise my face, it isn’t much use in 30 mph winds.

But the person calling was very apologetic and I was happy to help.

It was about a potential new piece of product development research. I found myself asking the usual questions about timescales, what they wanted to achieve, what they would do with the results afterwards etc.

Maybe it was the sea air – or maybe it was my holiday mood – but I couldn’t resist venturing another question…. What if we did nothing?

What if we didn’t do this research at all? What would happen? Would you go ahead with the new product anyway?

It turned out the research’s ability to impact any decision was limited. A business decision had already been made. The research would really be some fine-tuning of a proposition rather than anything more fundamental.

This put a very different complexion on the type and size of the piece of research I recommended. It made us focus our conversation around what really mattered.

The moral for me was that I shouldn’t assume just because someone wants to do some research, it’ll be worthwhile. It’s always worth asking a direct question. It’s worth being brave. It’s worth exploring what would happen if we did nothing.

And if we do, we’ll make sure we’re focusing our effort where we can make a real difference.

That’s where we all want to be, isn’t it?

Or maybe it’s on the beach on the Isle of Wight.

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