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The Final Puzzle: Seeing the Deal and Dealing With the Unforeseeable

these final aspects of the problem – constructing your end goal and finding the means to deal with unanticipated issues and challenges – constitutes a puzzle in and of itself and one that ultimately will define your success in product innovation business.

To start the discussion of this final puzzle, I can think of no better example than the one I lived through with NASA. Out of this highly capable institution populated by elite and talented individuals, I saw polar opposite results: programs that were successful in spite of unbelievable challenges, and those that were failures despite an

unbelievable network of support. different outcomes? At the risk of

What caused over-simplifying

such dramatically a complex issue, I

contend that the was the presence,

most significant factor separating success or absence, of vision and leadership.



One thing that you can count on in the small business world is that there is not one thing that you can count on! Life in small business moves quickly and challenges come from multiple directions. You can plan for and address all of the issues presented in this book, but this alone is not sufficient to ensure your success. Those who succeed are also responsive, aware, creative, and capable of turning any bad circumstance – no matter how stark – into a path forward.

I once heard the leader of a startup medical-device company state that “the main requirements for being a CEO in a small company are: 1) a willingness to eat airport food, and 2) an ability to survive multiple, near-death experiences!” Indeed, success in small business is not just the end result of a carefully planned effort, success is the end result of a carefully constructed vision that has been adopted by an expertly led, well-managed, and very capable organization that refuses to fail.

In the last chapter I discussed how to build such a capable organization. In this chapter, I will discuss how to set that organization, and yourself, up for success by creating the right vision and establishing the right leadership principles to convert that vision into an esprit de corps among your team that will see the team through the inevitable difficult times ahead, and will instill in that team, and in you, the confidence to persevere even when times get tough.

The Inventor’s Puzzle, Copyright © 2009 by Mark Lake


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