The unmistakable bright yellow fly agaric mushroom stood right in my path as I stepped out for a breath of fresh air in the East Woods last weekend. I had to stop and admire the fantastic color, texture, and symmetry of this fruiting body. Though we usually consider this visible part of the mushroom as the whole plant, in fact it is just the result of a long and arduous process of colonizing the ground with mycelium fibers. Only when conditions are suitable – enough available energy, adequate moisture, proper nutrients, right temperature, and sufficient mycelium mat laid, does the mushroom emerge.
Similarly when developing business either through new products or acquisitions, the foundational elements need to be rock solid in order to succeed. I just read about the case of Celgene flushing their antisense drug that they paid $710M for in 2014, because it did not perform as needed in the Phase 3 trial. Seems like bad luck, except that there were a number of questions about the Phase 2 study design that should have given pause to the folks at Celgene. So sometimes even the best intentions end up on the cutting room floor.
To avoid these types of situations where your products gain no traction after launch or your newly acquired technology flops, take a lesson from the yellow mushroom. Do not move too fast or too far with your project until you have answered the big questions with a high degree of confidence.
- What is the important problem you are solving?
- Is the underlying technology sound and protected?
- Do you have the resources in place to take this from its current stage to the final product in the marketplace?
- Do you have an understanding of the competitive forces at work now and in the future?
- If needed, do you have a reliable (and well-funded) partner to help you penetrate the market?
If you have confidence in your standing on these points, then full speed ahead and spread your products far and wide. If some of these questions leave you uncertain about your situation, then you need to spend more time and effort building the foundations. Though small projects can often be managed through a launch and learn approach, if you are really looking to build your enterprise, there is no substitute to having a large and solid mycelium mat from which to launch your fruiting bodies.
ps. and yes this mushroom is poisonous…