I have recently encountered a couple of interesting phrases that are new to me even though the concepts behind them were not. I am sharing them here because both relate strongly to the key point made in my previous article the Lean Startup Iceberg.
Stephen Jenner is a well-respected voice in the realm of benefits management. As part of his collaborations with APMG-International, several of his recent publications have made reference to both “the scout and beacon approach” (Andrew, J.P. & Sirkin, H.L. (2006) Payback, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Mass.) and “the dog that didn’t bark test” as valuable tools in the arsenal for uncovering emerging or unplanned benefits.
To start with the latter, this refers to an event in the Sherlock Holmes short story Silver Blaze. It recounts a curious incident whereby a guard-dog did not bark in a situation where this would have been expected; thus revealing a likely prior knowledge of the perpetrator of the crime under investigation.
The key takeaway is that it can be of pivotal importance to identify what is not being discussed. There could be political motives for not raising certain issues but more likely (especially in a collaborative solution-oriented environment) it may just be the result of having too narrow a focus.
One way to help address this could be the “scout and beacon approach” that promotes the establishment of one or more ‘scouts’ who adopt a broad outlook and scan the environment for potential opportunities. ‘Beacons’ are then metaphorically lit to communicate areas warranting further investigation and ideation. The role of the ‘scout’ appears to have some overlap with the raison d’etre behind “growth hackers” although I believe ‘scouts’ should have broader representation.
My view is that the ‘scouts’ need to include the customer and end-user community to properly anticipate system or procedural issues in their own domain in addition to identifying any downstream opportunities. This requires both an awareness of future possibilities and willingness to engage in hypothesising and impact assessment. If the ‘beacons’ are not being ‘lit’ on both sides of the problem/solution fence then there is a danger of a ‘dog not barking’ simply because it has no idea that to do so might be useful or, indeed, necessary.