Martin Bell – The 100 Tasks Playbook
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The “100 Task Startup” playbook was officially unveiled at TEDxBrussels, Europe’s largest TEDx conference, in March of 2018. Martin Bell’s TEDx speech, called “Can Innovation be as Simple as a Checklist?”, provides context as to why the 100 Tasks matter in today’s era of disruption. “The 100 Tasks let you zoom out to see the big picture, then zoom in to solve each step. It lets you put one foot in front of the other, while not losing track of the big picture.“ Check out the full version of the speech 1) as a blogpost and 2) as a YouTube video!
The “100 Task Startup” playbook is nicknamed 100 Tasks or just Playbook and it’s best viewed as a large, thick, and glossy poster (size A0 or E in the US) (size A0 or E in the US). The Playbook provides you with the 100 steps that any organization needs to take in order to build a successful startup: from 0 to validated idea to launch all the way to scaling.
What Differentiates the 100 Tasks from Other Literature on Startups?
The Playbook exhibits key differences from the ton of existing literature on startups and entrepreneurship:
The Devil is in the Details
The Playbook dives into the nuts-and-bolts of building companies. By breaking it into 100 concrete tasks, the Playbook is not stuck hovering at a stratospheric high level. Most frameworks propose only 3, 5, or 7 generic steps.
In fact, the Playbook provides both the high-level and the nitty-gritty. It offers the bird’s-eye view with its 3 broad stages, while simultaneously offering the option to deep-dive into 100 specific tasks, which are categorized not only into one of 3 stages but also into sub-stages, types of task, functional areas, and timing.
Success = 1% Idea + 99% Execution
In contrast to the vast majority of the literature on entrepreneurship, the 100 Tasks focus not only on the ideation, but much more on so on the execution of that idea.
Political economist Joseph Schumpeter is the intellectual father of entrepreneurship and innovation. His definition of innovation is that “innovation is the commercial spread of ideas”. Therefore, while most people use the term “innovation” to mean “invention”, Schumpeter’s definition goes much further, underlining the fact that real innovation is about the successful execution of that initial idea.
To illustrate, Thomas Edison is not only the most prolific inventor of modern times, but he is more importantly one of the most prolific innovators. In his famous quote, he maintained that “innovation success is 1% idea and 99% execution”. Coming from Edison, that means a ton.
We agree with Schumpeter and Edison that the idea is the most important step, but that there are many many other steps as part of the execution that follow.
Thus, the 100 Tasks do focus on the ideation part in stage 1, the Setup stage. In that stage, several tried and true frameworks are cited in the 100 Tasks. Examples are the Three Horizons, Four Steps to the Epiphany (i.e. Customer Development), Design Thinking, Business Model Canvas, and of course Lean Startup.
However, the 100 Tasks, especially stages 2 and 3, focus on the execution of that idea, an area in which there is a dearth of literature. The Playbook fills that critical void to make sure entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs don’t inadvertently drive their idea off a cliff.
Versatility via Various Viewpoints
Finally, the Playbook differentiates itself from the plethora of startup literature out there because it’s from the viewpoint of a major organization. That is, the Playbooks details the granular steps a major organization needs to setup a systematic company-building structure — called “launchpad”. How to establish a “launchpad” that is capable of launching and scaling multiple ventures is explained in stage 1, Setup.
While the Playbook calls it “corporates”, the Playbook is actually relevant to any public or private sector entities — governments, universities, NGOs, investors, and of course corporates — who want to transform their own innovative ideas into successful companies.
In addition, the vast majority of the 100 Tasks are relevant for any stand-alone startup.
Thus, the Playbook is so versatile because it can be utilized from the viewpoints of various organizations.
How was the Playbook Conceived?
The 100 Tasks represent the product of years of real experience in building great companies fast. As Martin Bell elaborated in his TEDx talk:
“Over the past years, I’ve consulted over 30 private and public sector entities.
Along this journey, I wanted to answer the question: What makes a digital company a success?
Specifically, I wanted to discern
which tasks are skipped by ventures that fail and
which tasks are essential to those that succeed.
Admittedly, I got a little obsessed and excited. Yet despite the complexity, I distilled the truly necessary steps into a comprehensive yet reasonably-sized playbook.”
What’s Each of the 3 Stages About?
The 3 stages — Setup, Launch, and Scale — are successive. That means, that one must com
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