Many Routes to Success, Few to Failure

If only one in ten commercialization+ effort succeeds today, a statistic, then we acknowledge that commercialization is a tricky and complex game. We don’t let today’s dire results prejudice our approach, for example, resorting to shots on goal+ or citing these statistics to justify efficiency plays. These statistics are not a foregone conclusion. We can and will influence these statistics through better selection, preparation, and management of our commercialization prototypes. But we do let today’s statistics serve as a wake-up call. Simply planning ahead, even with a contingency plan, is not enough. We start with a future that is abundant in choices, but as we move down the commercialization path we seek in our travels deliberate means to make sure we pay attention when new choices open up: Alternate Competing Hypotheses+ (ACH).

Alternate Competing Hypotheses is a technique the franchisee+ has already used with great success in the development of the prototype. No piece of evidence is gathered for its own sake. Evidence is gathered based on its usefulness in helping us arbitrate across competing theories. We build and nurture many alternate theories that explain the current observational data set (or, in spite of the observational data), and we prioritize that next task based on how well it will help us arbitrate across the alternates. For example, we may have competing theories that envision intense competition, raw material shortages, disruptive technologies, etc. Each commercialization work-task serves double duty: its original intent and our ACH intent.

The alternates with which we start are pregnant with opportunity. Going back to the parenting analogy, we’re not just sending you one child with instructions to get this child into Harvard Medical School. We send you several children with instructions to get one of them into a top-tier school (note: be careful with prior art+ restrictions in patent law). We open up your alternates for commercialization activities in the richness of the prototype package we send you. The ‘named’ prototype is one of many backup prototypes+. Many other familial prototypes popped out of the research cauldron and were included in the prototype package we sent you for commercialization.

It’s not just flexibility with the physical prototype: we provide flexibility in the operating manual, the target audience, tiers of service or product features, and a host of other factors that contribute to the subjective experience of our consumers. For regulated industries we provide materials that support many alternate approaches in our game plan for gaining regulatory approval. Every design specification of every component for the entire prototype package was previewed with an eye toward opening up future design options.

We have a wealth of raw analytical materials for use in building alternate paths. The prototype has passed through graduation+, purchase by the firm, and bidding by commercialization partners. Each of these milestones generates volumes of valuable analysis as raw material for construction of alternates. A franchisee also has access to scenarios from many other prototypes that have gone before. They have direct access to commercialization experts from the firm and from franchise operations+. All these bits of data and analysis come together to allow us to plan alternate paths that are robust, comprehensive and full of options for success.

Also, the franchisee continues working on possible solutions for risks identified during earlier milestones, the risk mitigation+ strategy. Work on the prototype has never stood still. Risk mitigation opens up alternate paths beforehand, should the risks materialize. If we find a fallen tree blocking our path, we’ve already thought to bring along the chainsaw.

Commercialization experts know how to overcome obstacles and identify new opportunities during commercialization. This is their most valuable contribution to the pursuit. We hire them foremost for their skills in creative- and critical- thinking. Alternate Competing Hypotheses starts as an exercise in planning. Commercialization is tactical and makes ACH come alive. It is often in the act of scaling up production (e.g., in a pilot plant) or from customer feedback on the near-final product (e.g., a beta release) that surprises are uncovered.

With Lipitor™ we could have lowered the dosage to be much safer than and just as good as our nearest competitor, Zocor™. This was our original plan. We opted instead to raise the dosage; to be much better at reducing cholesterol but with the same safety profile. This decision I believe is what made Lipitor™ the biggest selling drug in pharmaceutical history. DIA Pharmaceutical Industry Survey+ Participant

We continuously update our alternates and our progress in each alternate based on findings and estimations by our commercialization experts. ACH is not just a planning exercise: it’s how we run commercialization.


We prefer the best path but we never shut down other paths. ACH is a tallest-man-standing approach. Team members gravitate toward the most attractive path, but ACH provides a home for the paths of everyone, including the crackpot+. This can be very unsettling to those who ‘know the right way’ or are ‘in a hurry.’ Very few people can tolerate a crackpot or a dissenter+, even if they can acknowledge in theory their value for innovative pursuits. Alternate Competing Hypotheses means everybody’s opinion counts; no pet theory is ever shut down. Any path without merit will simply be out-competed, but that determination is never made arbitrarily. It’s made in a competition between alternate hypotheses. We seek many alternate paths to success, and that crackpot idea may later turn out to be the one we really follow.

ACH is an attitude, one of respect for other people’s viewpoints. It’s an attitude that is both innate and learned. Many team members will not, in their heart-of-hearts, subscribe to this attitude. Keeping ACH alive in the attitudes of our team members is a full-time job, and takes skill. We find this skill in the franchisee team members. It’s part of their World Class R&D certification and they’ve lived through it in bringing their prototype to commercialization. This is yet another reason for why we subscribe to having the franchisee-in-charge+.

An important franchise benefit is having access to some of the best practitioners of ACH in the industry. These are individuals who have seen ACH in its many diverse forms. They have seen and dealt with many personality types. They know how to deal with common concerns voiced by others when they first encounter this practice (e.g., lack of direction, burning cash, misaligned focus, takes too long). They know what it takes to make ACH real. Franchisees have full access to these practitioners, for both the design and the execution of Alternate Competing Hypotheses.


Home Page September 2010