3 Basic “Decision Ready” Safety Tips

Perhaps this has happened to you:

You wait nervously in the conference room for the executive so you can present your new product idea.  Twelve minutes late to the 30 minute meeting the executive vice president of marketing and vice president of product development rush into the room and hastily sit down amid profuse apologies for being late due to a crisis with the companies biggest customer.

You notice the slides you sent have not been looked at since there are no turn folds near the staple.   You launch into a hurried presentation.  You notice both VPs are looking back and forth between the pages on the table and your presentation on the screen – scribbling notes and underlining words.  You finish with 3 minutes to spare thinking you nailed it.  They ask a few superficial questions, point out a couple of minor issues and send you back to rework the idea as they rush out of the room, late to their next meeting.

The executives were not ready to make a decision.  It didn’t matter if the presentation went great or not.  They looked interested but what they were doing was finding a way out of making a decision.  They were not prepared to commit to a course of action under those circumstances.   If you value the work you do then you must follow some basic Decision Ready Safety Tips to make sure your decision makers are “Decision Ready.”

Safety Tip # 1 – Never go into a decision meeting to get a decision. 

If the decision makers have not already decided then cancel the meeting, run to the bathroom, duck out the window, fake a heart attack – you may as well, you’re dead anyway.  Seriously, if they are not ready do not ask for a decision, the only answer can be “no” or a delay.  Change the nature of the meeting to just an informal discussion or an information meeting.  Do not press for a decision.  Even if the decision goes your way it will be a weak decision – easily discounted by other people that you may need to support your idea.

Safety Tip #2 – Do not assume the decision maker can read. 

Take time to meet with the decision makers before the meeting to ensure they are well informed and that you have a chance to respond to any questions or concerns they might have.  What if you can’t get time with them before the decision meeting?  Meet with their minions and present the material to them – again carefully inform them and respond to their concerns.  In the presentation you can say you talked with their people and responded to their concerns.  This gives you great credibility.

Safety Tip #3 – Do not assume the decision is actually made.

Hallway vetoes happen all the time.  Just because an executive says the words, “it’s approved” does not mean the resources and support becomes available.  Decisions are regularly made without allocating resources.  You must follow up with written and verbal statements and restatements informing all the affected parties of the decision and you must secure resource commitments from the various parties involved while the decision is fresh in the minds of everyone.

An Innovative Idea’s Most Valuable Three Sentences

Innovation is about putting new ideas into use. A value proposition links your innovative idea with enduring customer needs and your ability to deliver.

Building a powerful three sentence value proposition

Having researched, taught, developed, and used value propositions for decades we have developed a simple method to array your information about an innovative idea into a powerful form that can be easily shared with others. The following worksheet divides your value proposition into three sentences.

Sentence 1:  Market, needs product and benefits

o   The first phrase in the first sentence identifies the target of the idea.  There is no value without an intended customer in mind.

o   The second phrase shows what the customer needs.

o   The third phrase identifies your idea.

o   The fourth phrase describes the benefit of your idea as it fills the needs of your intended customer.  This is sometimes difficult and can be addressed by asking “why” your customer needs your idea.

Sentence 2: Competitive ability and advantage

o   The first phrase of the second sentence describes the advantage of your idea.

o   The second phrase explains what is different from the competition.

  • Sentence 3: Request

o   The third sentence makes clear what you want your intended audience to do.

Value proposition worksheet for innovative healthcare idea

Structure Information
First Sentence:
For (target customer) For people with borderline cholesterol level,
Who (statement of the need or opportunity) who need to know their actual level risk for coronary heart disease (CHD),
The (product or service name) the LipoProfile diagnostic test,
That (statement of benefit)  allows patients and physicians to discover their unseen risk of CHD.
Second Sentence:
Unlike (primary competitive offering) Unlike conventional cholesterol tests that only measures total, high-density and low density cholesterol,
Our offering (statement of primary differentiation) our offering measures the number and concentration of cholesterol particles to more accurately predict CHD risk.
Third Sentence:
Therefore, we request Therefore we request you ask doctors to order the LipoProfile when you have a borderline level of cholesterol

These three sentences do not provide proof for an idea. They just array information you already have or call attention to information you need to gather to make a clear statement about the value of your idea.

The value proposition is used as your elevator pitch, as the core starting point of a business model and as the start of the executive summary of a business case.

Everyone knows the new product failure rate is over 80%

  • Really?  That’s terrible, where did you hear that?
  • It’s common knowledge!  Everyone knows that!
  • Yea – but who actually said it?
  • Everyone – don’t be stupid.

OK — so we took the stupid pill

We asked people inside 453 companies what their failure rate is.  And guess what  – the results are the same as they have been since dawn of recorded product research (about 1960).  It turns out most empirical research performed over 50 years confirms the product failure rate has been remarkably stable.

The product failure rate is 40% – half the amount that “everyone knows.”

But wait, there’s more

What if you could find out failure rate without asking people inside companies what their failure rate is?

You can!

Professor John Stanton looked at 1,500 new products, in eight food categories, introduced in the period 2010-2012. He used data from Mintel’s Global New Products Database to find out the date a product was introduced. He then checked each company’s website and defined a failed product as one not listed on the website at least 18 months after introduction.

The product failure rate is 35% … much less than “everyone believes”.

For more information on product failure rates: | Click on “Myths About New Product Failure Rates” in the Menu bar


(2013) Markham, S. and Lee, H Product Development and Management Association’s 2012 Comparative Performance Assessment Study  Journal of Product Innovation Management, Volume 30, Issue 3, pages 408–429

(2014) Stanton,  New Product Success Rate Higher Than Most Believe Food Processing  March 27, 2014


JPIM – Product Success Rate