Articles

Category :

Other Topics

Fragile Plan vs Robust Plan



Fragile Plan vs Robust Plan

A Guest Post by Derek Sivers 


When I first had the idea for Wood Egg - publishing 16 books about 16 countries every year - I thought I would write them all myself. Visit 16 countries for 3 weeks each, doing intensive research the whole time. That’s 48 weeks, so I could do it again each year.


… But I had a baby on the way, so that idea lasted about a minute.


Then I thought of a journalist I know who would love that kind of life. I asked, she said yes, she flew to Singapore, and started working.


… But it was a really bad fit, so after five weeks, we called it quits.


Then I decided to hire one writer per-country. 16 authors to write 16 books. This went OK at first. Mohit Pawar did a great job with India, andCameron Keng did a great job with Taiwan.


… But the people I hired for the other countries flaked out, so I realized this plan was still too fragile.


Making a Robust Plan


I really wanted this to work. I had to be smart. I had to make a better plan.


I re-read my notes on E-Myth, The Wisdom of Crowds, Crowdsourcing, andHere Comes Everybody. (In fact, I re-read my notes on ALL 130 books. It was an enlightening week.)


I learned a few things:


  1. If you want help, it helps to get specific.

  2. A plan that’s too dependent on any one person is too fragile.


Getting Specific:


Before, I had a very vague outline of what I wanted the book to cover. I asked the authors to include sections on culture, government, business setup, hiring, banking, and marketing. That was it. The details were up to them. Go!


In hindsight, I can see how daunting it was. Too wide open. I’ve written about the need to get specific before - (see “Get specific” and “Restrictions will set you free”) - but I had forgotten to apply it to this.


So I spent a couple weeks and came up with 200 specific questions. Now, to write the book, we just had to answer those 200 questions.


It’s infinitely easier to find someone to answer a specific question than to find someone to impart wisdom on a vague topic. It puts the burden on the asker, to come up with a good question, and lifts the burden from the answerer.


Multiple People:


So that the book was not dependent on any one person, and the book was not one person’s opinion, I made a system where each of those 200 questions had to be answered by three different people. Ideally, one local, one foreigner, and one other.


16 countries × 3 researchers = 48 people. I used Elance and oDesk to find people in each country.


Of course, some disappeared, some never finished, and a few gave bad answers, but that was OK. Life happens. People’s circumstances change. I understand. But it won’t hurt my plan. If any one person is gone, I can still carry on.


When all 200 questions had 3 answers each, (16 × 200 × 3 = 9600 answers), I hired a few writer/editors to combine the answers into one essay per question. Again, one person disappeared, but it was easy for another to step in.


And that was the robust plan that got it done.


(Note: I was also visiting every country myself, and contributing my own research to the books. But it was important that the plan didn’t require me, either.)


Lessons learned?


If you’re starting a project or company:


  1. Don’t expect anyone to care as much as you.

  2. Don’t require them to think as hard about this as you have.

  3. Do expect them to change their mind and disappear.

  4. Make a robust plan that includes #1-3.


As the founder, the burden is on you to come up with a great plan, to lift the burden from the people helping you.


Then, when you find some brilliant people, it’s a great bonus, instead of an absolute necessity.

© 2013 Derek Sivers



Originally a professional musician and circus clown, Derek Sivers created CD Baby in 1998.


It became the largest seller of independent music online, with $100M in sales for 150,000 musicians.


In 2008, Derek sold CD Baby for $22M, giving the proceeds to a charitable trust for music education.


He is a frequent speaker at the TED Conference, with over 5 million views of his talks.


In 2011, he published a book which shot to #1 on all of its Amazon categories.


Derek Sivers lives in Singapore, where he is creating his next company.




Live-Banner-General-Homepage.jpg





Originally a professional musician and circus clown, Derek Sivers created CD Baby in 1998.


It became the largest seller of independent music online, with $100M in sales for 150,000 musicians.


In 2008, Derek sold CD Baby for $22M, giving the proceeds to a charitable trust for music education.


He is a frequent speaker at the TED Conference, with over 5 million views of his talks.


In 2011, he published a book which shot to #1 on all of its Amazon categories.


Derek Sivers lives in Singapore, where he is creating his next company.

Too Late For A Woman?

Feeling overwhelmed? How to take charge of your To Do List

You're Worth It

Do You Believe?

Rejoicing In Our Fortunes-Appreciation Training for Musicians (and others!)

"It's Just a Number"-The Age of Total Acceptance

The Power of Positive Thinking

I love being wrong

Sycophant Syndrome- Handling the Handlers

The Power Of Asking

10 Reasons Not To Give Up

5 Things Artists Can Learn From Erykah Badu Ava Bella

Slaying Stage Fright in my Pursuit of Happiness

Are Dairy Products Screwing Up Your Singing Voice?

The Meaning of Life

Change careers like Tarzan

The Hidden Dangers of the Sound of Music

Sound Check, Tools of the Trade

How will this game end?

Same word. Different places? Different meanings.

Jac Holzman - A Guest Post by Derek Sivers

Why am I here?

Why was this secret?

Tips for Creating Your Own Music Video

Belt Out a Song For Better Health

Musicians Earn Superfans Through Authenticity and Generosity

3 Simple and Free Website Design Resources for Musicians

5 Tips For Getting Featured On Beatport

Technical Hitches And Things To Avoid As A Singer-Songwriter

A New Model for Music, Music in the Liberal Arts

A Petty Reminder

3 Steps To Avoiding The Mid-campaign Slump In Your Band's Kickstarter

3 Unexpected Things That Happen After Your Band's Kickstarter Succeeds

3 Surprising Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Crowdfunding Campaign (It's Not What You Think)

Treat Me Like I'm Five

Lessons From an Ice Cream Scooper

Smart People Don't Think Others Are Stupid

You Don't Have To Be Local

Focus, Entertain, or Both?

The Female Disadvantage(?)

Spending Money on Your Band's Marketing & Promo

Guidelines for Musicians Traveling Overseas

A Simple Method for Memorizing Lyrics

3 Lessons I Learned About the Music Business From Sports

Service And The Power Of Positivity

The Easiest Way To Figure Out Your Favorite Bass Licks

Become A Student Of Your Craft. Learn Music Theory

Routine Techniques That Kick-Ass

Gain New Fans By Releasing Popular Holiday Covers

How To Tour Locally

Tips For Having The Best Music Festival Experience

Signup Free