We Need A Compass .. Not A Map

Building A Bridge To Innovation


Leadership & Design

Subscribe To Our Blog

$500,000 & Six Months Wasted

Jun 1, 2019 6:11:13 PM / by Travis Jacobs



I was talking with a client the other day let's call him Jack ...

Jack told me that the Talking Football was the dumbest idea he has ever heard of ... 

After a few beers we started talking about a project that Jack had worked on last year that didn't go particularly well ... in fact it was a disaster


Jack and his team built a few prototypes that cost the company over $500,000 ... and six months ...

Jack tried to tell his boss and others that the product they were building didn't meet the customers needs, the customer didn't want it and wouldn't use it.


The product needed to be held in one hand for long periods of time in order for it to be useful by the customer.


The prototype weighed over ten pounds and was the size of a shoe box ... when it needed to be about the size and weight of two smartphones.


This info fell on deaf ears...

So what happened ... the product kept moving along the product development process ... wasting lots of time and money ... building a product that no one wanted ... 


Why did this happen ...

... It's not polite to talk about the Pink Elephant in the room ... point out issues and problems.

... because someone's ego would get bruised

... we have to spend this money ... otherwise we will get our budget cut next year.

The project ultimately got cancelled ... after lots of needless pain and suffering by Jack and his team ... as well as lots of wasted time and money.


Jack was incredibly frustrated and somewhat angry at the failed project ... I call this the typical project


I said Jack ... in today's development world speed and accuracy are king ... if you can't hit the target it doesn't matter how fast you can shoot ... slow down and do it right ... hit the target.  Jack gave me a death look with an angry expression on his face that said "No @#$&!!!"


Sorry Jack, I said, I knew I was preaching to the choir with this one. Jack and I agreed on this and I could sense his frustration.  The problem, Jack said, was how to implement the Talking Football.

The team Jack was a part of was somewhat dysfunctional on a good day ... The typical project they worked on was always chaos & constant fire fighting ... it's always one step forward and ten steps back ... somehow we always manage to shoot ourselves in the foot a few times along the way.


Jack said the Talking Football was the dumbest idea he has ever heard of because he didn't know how to put it into practice.  He said he didn't want to look stupid ... it's silly and childish ... 

We have to deal with a lot of politics and huge egos on occasion ... we also have a habit of shooting the messenger at my company ... Jack said.


I asked him how it felt to waste all that time and money and have the project cancelled ... Jack said in a half joking tone "You're an a**hole ... you're not wrong but you're still an a**hole"  

Jack is a great guy and the guys on his team respect him, but there is a lot of politics and nonsense at his company.


If only we had a bit of Leadership ... Jack said ... we could stop doing stupid shit ... chasing our tails ... shooting ourselves in the foot ... repeatedly.

How do we transform the typical project .. and remove all the bullshit ... and move our projects closer to the Ideal Project .. Jack Asked.  


Well Jack ... that isn't easy ... the biggest obstacle is other people's Ego.

Have you heard of Jocko Willink, the Navy SEAL commander that wrote the book Extreme Ownership?


I know a lot things went wrong ... and some of them aren't your fault.  

If you start blaming others and scapegoating ... so will the guys on your team.

If you stand in front of your team and say I f*cked up ... it's all my fault ... I take full responsibility ... it's no one else's fault but mine.


Now ... how to fix this so it doesn't happen again?

nfl football

And if you just so happen be carrying around a football ... at some point during the conversation ... the team will get curious and ask why you have a football.

Throw them the football at that point ... tell them you would to try something ... 

This is very simple ... If you aren't holding the football ... you are to listen ... not talk.


Jack and the guys that work for him just want to go to work everyday and do a good job, they take great pride in their work and they want to be proud of their accomplishments. 

Jack and his team do not want to go to work and do a bad job .. deal with politics, red tape and nonsense all day ... unfortunately that doesn't always happen and Ego gets in the way.


No one wants to go to work everyday and do a bad job ...

Nobody likes going to a job they absolutely hate ...


The CEO Challenge is a technique to eliminate waste and inefficiency by the troops on the front lines


With the use of the Talking Football & the Thinking Hats ... we can avoid "Who's On First" Syndrome and execute to win as a team ... with excellence.


Free Ebook

Common Mistakes


Free Ebook

Common Obstacles


Does It Make Sense To Talk?

Let's Talk



Topics: Leadership, Communication, Fail, Innovation, Execution, Strategy, Tactics, Team, Winning, Purpose, Planning, Why

Travis Jacobs

Written by Travis Jacobs

Travis is the president of JA Simulations, a product design & development firm in Denver Colorado. We help clients solve problems & get to market faster with innovative & high quality products

Subscribe To Our Blog