Skunk Works : Maven Solutions

I recently came across the concept of “skunk works”. The idea of having a small group of individuals breaking out of their usual environment really resonated. I have my best ideas or breakthroughs while driving, browsing in art galleries or somewhere else completely removed from my normal work environment. 2 friends and I have been tossing an idea around for more than a year now. Life, work and everything else has been interrupting us and we decided that this was the moment to make or break our project.

Part one of the skunk works process was to decamp to a friend’s house that is away from the city with a fabulous view of the mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. 2 hours later we had refined our idea; drawn up a basic roadmap and agreed next actions.

Part two of the skunk works process came while we were shooting some video content for some market research that we are needing to do for our project. While reviewing the scripts for the shoot, our “talent” added their own flavour to the content and brought their passion for the idea to their narrative. Completely unexpected, but that is how collaboration works. We feed off each other’s energies and ideas and create something better and richer.

So, what did we learn from our skunk works experience?

  1. It works! The adage of a change is as good as a holiday rang so true for us. Being away from the shackles and humdrum of our usual office life also opened our creative thinking and we could imagine far larger and more exciting possibilities
  2. Diversity is key. The different perspectives brought by our associates from outside of our organisation challenged us to reassess our views on certain elements. They are less invested in our idea and so less afraid to push the concept to a new level without constantly scanning ahead to identify risks and possible challenges.
  3. It’s OK to let go of control. We got uncomfortable when our “talent” started to freestyle with our scripts. Taking our content and making it their own ultimately made them so much more believable and credible. Our content now looks amazing despite it no longer being exactly as we had initially planned.

The output of this exercise is a very simple piece of market research that will run over a period of 2 weeks. While we all think that our idea is amazing and necessary, we have no idea whether our target market will make of it. Will they understand why this capacity development is important? If they do understand, will they engage with the platform as we envisage it?

We have shot some great video and we will be running a brief social media campaign to measure the stickiness of our idea. Once this is complete, we will be able to make a more informed decision about our concept and whether it will deliver a sustainable business or not.

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