Time for Unplanning?

“Unplanning” is the brainchild of Mason Zimbler Creative Director David Sloly and business advisor and author Ian Sanders. The pair unveiled their new outlook on business planning at the prestigious South by South West (SXSW) Interactive festival, held this March in Austin, Texas. The theory acknowledges the unpredictable nature of business today, and advocates agility and action over unnecessary research and planning. Here’s a bite of the apple.


By Judy Racino

“Unplanning” is the brainchild of Mason Zimbler Creative Director David Sloly and business advisor and author Ian Sanders. The pair unveiled their new outlook on business planning at the prestigious South by South West (SXSW) Interactive festival, held this March in Austin, Texas. The theory acknowledges the unpredictable nature of business today, and advocates agility and action over unnecessary research and planning. Here’s a bite of the apple.

What is a plan anyway?

There are plans that are written in months – years even – and plans that are written a heck of a lot more quickly than that. Take for example Hotmail: its business plan was written overnight by one of the founders, Sabeer Bhatia. It was enough to secure finances to hire programmers to create their webmail service, which was later sold to Microsoft for $400 million.

Why do we plan?

Extensive plans with involvement from management teams, analysts and advisors are meaningless in our fast-moving world. David Hieatt, entrepreneur, co-founder of howies and curator of  the ‘Do Lectures’, believes that, “Really, a business plan is another way of saying ‘guess’; a strategy is another way of saying ‘hunch’. The awful truth is that we don’t know what will work. But it’s hard to get funding for a guess, and to persuade a boardroom to back your hunch with their money. We need to adopt the idea of trying to fail faster; of trying lots of new ways of doing something; to take risks and to experiment as if we don’t know the answer.We just need to stop acting so smart.”

If the risk is low, press green and go!

Good plans are short, sweet and clear. If you’re not risking too much money, too many people or staking your reputation, then just go for it. A web-based business can be launched in beta tomorrow, and you can fine tune as you go. Tom Peters, uber-guru, author and speaker, said “I’ve learned one thing in 40 years of business: he who tries the most stuff fastest, wins.”

If the risk is high, ask why

If you focus on associated risks, you’re going to run into problems. This is because the primitive fight-or-flight area of your brain will create chemicals and a physical reaction stopping you from doing something that is potentially dangerous. It will paralyse you and prevent you from acting on what could be a great idea. So confront the risk, trust your instincts and just get on with it!

Why the notion of long-term planning is broken

Big corporations have typically engaged in really long-term plans, however the technology explosion means that a five-year plan is impossible in our new world, where five years no longer represents what it used to. Kevin Roberts, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide CEO, said, “A company’s success can be measured in an inverse ratio to the amount of time spent on traditional strategic planning… It’s about ‘surfing’, not ‘managing’.”

Adapt and thrive

It’s the flexible and open-minded business driver who grasps opportunities and embraces change that will come out tops. This harks back to the Darwinian theory of evolution. In Charles Darwin’s words, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

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Change your mindset

So ditch the PowerPoint slides, the spreadsheets, the big fat documents and focus instead on your damn fine idea, your audience, your market differentiator and your money-making model.

The complete ebook is provided below.

Unplan Your Business

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