Someone asked me to do a lecture titled "Planning for the unkown". Initially it sounds like an oxymoron. However, after a little thought I came up with an approach. The process is described below.
Planning is a process, which means that it involves discipline, focus and a step by step approach. However, any process is only as good as the thinker and thinking in the process. Therefore, to consider the unkown, we must first recognize that the unkown is outside of current human knowledge. Therefore, we need a technique that helps us to think outside of human knowledge.
A technique I like for this purpose is "relax the assumption". This technique is based on the bias we have all developed in our thinking and problem solving. The technique focuses on identifying and relaxing a key assumption in a problem in order to develop a solution, e.g. the laptop relaxed the desk assumption. However, this technique only helps in planning if we know what to think about.
The topics to think about for business planning are:
Admittedly pretty obvious in hindsight. The hard part is to identify what assumptions to change for each of these five factors. Drumroll!! Focus on the key parts of the business model and relax assumptions about pricing, sales and distribution as they relate to each of the five factors. For example, the current discussions in Europe about no charge for roaming on cellular phones might have surfaced if one relaxed the pricing assumption during the consideration of regulatory. Amazon would have possibly shown up if one relaxed the store assumption (distribution) in a market or competition analysis for booksellers.
Now that we understand how to find the unkown, please keep an eye out for the next Google :) Also, remember that identifying the problem is the hard part. The solution is easy. If you forgot, read this post.