How Steve Blank Blew My Mind in 10 Minutes

So . . . Steve Blank came into my company's office yesterday at 4:00 PM. My head hurt by 4:10. 

Our Managing Partner Pete Newell had invited Steve to BMNT Partners to discuss way to modify his Lean Launchpad curriculum for use in a military-specific program based out of Stanford University.

Silicon Valley entrepreneurship + Military-grade problems = some seriously powerful solutions, with wide range of applicability in public and private markets.

This is a difficult project. It has an inherent complexity because it requires buy-in from military, academic, and commercial organizations. Approval processes are long, personalities need to be managed, and any hint of undue risk will scuttle the whole damn thing. From Steve we needed insights about both the strategic and tactical elements that we needed to consider before diving too deep.

We were not disappointed. 

Steve has an incredible ability to learn from his (and others') entrepreneurial experiences. He can taken an incredibly rich array of information and use a few filters to help make sense of the few signals that are really out there.

I expected an extensive lecture on the various aspects we needed to consider. Maybe an hour or two. Instead we got a simple framework for understanding how innovation does (not) happen in large organizations. 

First Steve sketched out a bump, which he called "Horizon 1". Then another: "Horizon 2". And finally a third.

These horizons are the three types of business operations that must happen simultaneously for any established company to remain competitive. Each line of operation has a horizon, with it's own internal logic, incentives, and culture. 

Horizon 1 focuses on execution. These are the activities that make up most jobs out there. In goes X, out comes Y. You can make slight improvements to the process, but nothing too crazy.

Horizon 2 focuses on extension. Here people make step-wise improvements by integrating new processes or technologies, or by moving into new markets. 

Horizon 3 focuses on disruption. Folks in this group are searching for crazy game-changing stuff. They don't follow any rules, and leave a wake of debris behind them as they iterate and experiment.

You can read more about the three horizons on Steve's blog if you'd like. The only thing I wanted to note was how impressive it is to sit with someone who can boil down incredibly complex topics to a simple drawing with three bumps and about ten words. That's a great teacher. 

Hopefully it helps you clarify (to yourself and others) where you are, and what you are doing. More to come as we keep working with Steve on this awesome project!