From Limits to Goals

Behind the scenes on our internal innovation project: post 1 of 3

2.5 years… no, it’s not a lot of time, but that’s how long I can stay in one role. It happened with my first, second and third job. Each time, after exactly 2.5 years I grew antsy. Each time, after 2.5 years I wanted to push myself into something entirely different.

I expected this pattern to stop after I started Let’s Make Great! 4 years ago. I thought if I was my own boss, then there would be nowhere to go… Yet, 2.5 years into our company, the desire to explore again, slowly crept back.

Around the summer of 2015, my partners noticed this antsy-ness and we decided to embark on an internal innovation project that ended up becoming “PROTO.”

In this special blog, I will share how we created our card-game on business modeling… (and how it almost didn’t happen). In doing so, we hope you find insights for your own projects.

Step 0: Examine Your Foundation

Like most other companies, our budget didn’t include extra cash to “explore new things.” Yet this innovation project had to contribute to the business. So before we started investing, we analyzed our own business model for its limitations.

  • Time for Money: As a consultancy, we traded our time for money. That means for our business to do better, we could either increase our rate, OR increase the number of consultants. We were already at the high end of the market, and again, we didn’t have budget to increase overhead. So right from the start, our first limitation.
  • Clients: Next was the fact that we almost worked exclusively with corporations, servicing 15–20 projects a year. While our clients have been extremely kind to us, 2016 was projected to be a soft year, so there were no guarantees either.
  • Other: Finally, up until that point, all of our projects were focused on China. This wasn’t really a weakness, but it was something to consider.
“I think people hold onto things… without realizing the thing that’s going to get them to the next level is to break the thing that got them there.”
Gary Vaynerchuk (Daily Vee 215).

Step 1: Setting Goals

The results of the analysis weren’t a surprise but it did guide our thinking… what if we flipped our business on its head? We were primarily a B2B service in China, so what if we explored B2C products abroad?

That meant, whatever came out of later brainstorms should be some sort of tangible product that could potentially scale to a larger international audience.

There are so many different ways to grow and a lot of people dream of lofty ideas. While I normally encourage that, innovations have to move the business forward.

Flipping the limitations of the model is one way to set practical parameters.

Takeaway: From Limits to Goals

If you’re serious about your business, then look at its fundamental structure. Examine yourself, your team, your clients and your market:

  • Where are the weaknesses?
  • What are the limits of your business model?
  • Where might it plateau in 3–5 years?

Attack these limitations with your next innovation. This first post outlines the inception of this project as well as how we set the parameters to make sure this creative exploration would be strategically relevant.

In the next blog, I want to share how we translated these parameters into ideas and eventually into PROTO.


(Fast forward to present day 2017, and it’s obvious how PROTO fits within this original frame, first set in September 2015).

PROTO is a new card game for aspiring innovators to experience the creative process in just 1 hour. Created by Let’s Make Great! and launching soon on Kickstarter May 2017.