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Good post John. I think that both approaches still have value - but only in the correct context, the classic complex systems story. Pivots still make sense in very early stage startups, but are dangerous in more established organisations, for exactly the reasons you lay out. I think that the critical issue with the portfolio approach is that it works across a programmatic approach to learning/experimentation. So you can't build a portfolio like a financial investment portfolio, because then you run into the problems that you identify. But a narrow portfolio across a specific problem still makes sense, I think. To me, the big problem here is seeing these tools touted as one-size-fits-all, and with fairly broad/fuzzy definitions.
Ralf - I'm currently working on a book aimed at addressing the precise issue that you raise! I'll keep you posted, and, of course, I'll write a fair bit of it via my blog.
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That's a great lineup at Big Think - congratulations Dominic!
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Feb 22, 2011