This week’s focus: You don’t start a car in fifth, and even Usain Bolt doesn’t really get into his stride until the last 40 metres of his 100 metre sprints. Yet, many business leaders are so anxious to generate growth that they try to implement their new growth initiatives without moving through the gears. It hardly ever ends well.

Tesco’s failed investment in its US chain, Fresh & Easy, for example, is to be sold, with write-offs of over £1 billion. Unlike the retailer’s focused development of its Express concept – which took five years to create a profitable model that could be rolled out at scale – managers quickly opened over 100 Fresh & Easy stores, even though the concept had not been tested.

Innovation pace isn’t about moving straight to launch; it’s about learning rapidly and applying those lessons faster than your competitors. Think big, but start small and act fast.

Where are you trying to start a new growth project in fifth, when you should be moving through the gears?

Off The Record: Fast Car by Tracy Chapman

You got a fast car

But is fast enough so you can fly away?

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© Stuart Cross 2013. All rights reserved.