by Rand Leeb-du Toit

Uber started as “an unambitious simple idea”. This is how Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick opened his talk at the Digital-Life-Design Conference in Munich, Germany this week.

“We just wanted to push a button and get a ride,” said Travis.

That sounded very familiar to me. In fact, it is a recurrent theme.

For example, I’d heard similar words from Evan Williams as we huddled in the offices of Obvious in San Fancisco on Presidents Day, 2006. Seeking feedback, I’d just demo’d a virtual worlds venture to him, Biz Stone, Jack Dorsey and the rest of the crew. As things settled down from their reosoundingly positive response, Ev turned to me and in his quietly spoken way asked, ” Do you mind if we shared with you this little side project we are working on, it’s called Twitter?”

The initial intention behind Twitter was encapsulated in the meaning of the word Twitter itself: “a short burst of inconsequential information”.

Of course, we all know the rest of the Twitter story, but the main point I’m making here is that often successful projects don’t start out with an explicit intention to be successful.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but here’s why it works:

Without success locked into its original DNA, a project has the freedom to morph, to change direction with minimal delay or baggage and feel out its success path, its path of most demand (as opposed to its path of least resistance).

Evan Williams sums up this trait as being a “path of discovery…where over time you figure out what it is.”

And so as you grapple with the increasing pressure to deliver impactful innovation projects, as you seek to deliver on the promise of digital business – take a step back. Unhinge your ambition and desire for success from the projects you are working on. Give them space to breath.
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Gartner, Inc