Immediately upon reaching the tipping point of opportunity, one is thrust into the funnel of execution. Having spent much time in Silicon Valley, where execution often plays second fiddle to innovation, I am fully aware of the criticality of this transition. Even so, every time I’m faced with the funnel, I battle the culture shock that forces me out of my comfort zone and the comfort zones of many around me.
The funnel requires routine discipline, not creative spontaneity. The right-brain out-of-the-box thinking that drives innovation is drastically different than the left-brain discipline of implementation. If the funnel is company-wide, leaders must consciously acknowledge the shift, visibly eschewing loosey-goosey ways of innovation for the tight-shipped processes of execution. “Every idea is a good one” brainstorming should give way to if-it’s-not-crucial-forget-it alignment. Long, agenda-less meetings of unstructured speculation should be replaced with short, structured scrums focused on a dashboard of prioritized tasks required to get between now and then.
If you are a creative type, the funnel will exhaust you. Develop ways to ensure your own diligence. Create daily lists even if you’re not a list-maker. Cross completed items off and move uncompleted ones to the following day. Schedule reminders that force you to revisit priorities. Limit your time of self-reflective ideation. Spend the saved time in communication and problem solving.
Currently I’m experiencing funnels within both my entrepreneurial and literary endeavors. Friends and family question how I manage the intense hours that come with these parallel funnels. They remark, with surprise, that I appear energized. It is true. While exhausting, there is an in-the-zone sense of satisfaction and camaraderie that comes with the diligent execution of a complicated plan. It is more real-time, more visceral, than the deep-seated satisfaction of creation. To me, it’s when entrepreneurialism most feels like gambling—poker to be exact—when luck is trumped only by a well-played hand.