Transformation leader Ewan MacLeod shares his “Zero to 10 Approach” for managing ideas from executives

Here’s an overview of my “Zero to 10 Approach” for managing ideas from executives.


Essentially, it works like this:

💡 You are presented with a (potentially great) idea from an executive. But it’s complex. It’s going to need a lot of work. And although it’s a good idea, fully baking it (to the tune of $10m or something similar) and then presenting it to market can result in failure — irrespective if whether the idea was good or not.

💡 Often, direct reports don’t want to discourage or say no to their bosses. It feels a little difficult to challenge whether any customer will use it.. or want it.

Indeed, many executives tend to think they know what the market wants – and can be surprised when that viewpoint isn’t necessarily accurate.



💡 My 0-10 approach begins by making this observation:

“OK, if this [the idea] was version 10… what would version 1 look like?”

You’re not saying no.

You’re not rubbishing the idea.

You’re not demanding more evidence.

You’re not responding with the usual “computer says no” or “It cannae be dun captain” responses many executives don’t enjoy hearing.

You’re accepting the concept of the idea – and implicitly suggesting iteration and a test-and-learn methodology, already.

The executive will generally engage.

I really like this method, because it’s team work. You’re working with (rather than against). You also get the option to begin to say “oh… connect it to core [banking]… right, well, we can do that, but I’d suggest that might be version 3”.

So you’re already beginning to map out a potential iteration of the idea – and you’re gently able to explain and illustrate complexity by shifting specific features, demands or requirements to other future versions.

I then combine this “0-10 approach” by asking the executive: “What will it take to go live with version 1, now?”

(Or soon.. or within a month, or a quarter).

Again, I’m challenging the executive with this question to simplify the concept and encourage a test-and-learn methodology. All too often, without the right level of communication, ideas, strategies, new products are thrown into the market “because they had an idea” and no one challenged or helped the executive to iterate and deploy in a meaningful, staged manner.

Often, the “version 10” of an idea – something that’s going to need $10m spent on it – will have a version 1, or a version 0.5… something that could perhaps be tested, manually, with a handful of customers. Or something you can build in a week and then test it.. and then begin iterating based on feedback.

By suggesting version 1 – or version 0.5 – and by also suggesting you try right-away, you keep the enthusiasm of the executive, keep the budget low and you can test-and-learn together.

Have you done similar?

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