Ready-aim-fire doesn’t work as well in non-profits

Rod Drury has said that “It’s not the big that eat the small, it’s the fast that eat the slow”.

The biggest examples of this are companies like Uber and Airbnb who moved very quickly to secure large portions of the market.

Eric Reis is another classic advocate of this and centres most of his hit book “The Lean Startup” around the idea of moving fast and testing the market in order to make research and development more efficient.

Fail as quickly as possible so that you can pivot and do something more successful instead.

This is all useful advice… in the for-profit world.

Things change in the non-profit space whereby moving fast and testing the market can cost lives.

Even if it doesn’t cost lives directly, the variable of how lives can be impacted is a much more expensive risk factor than only dealing with the company’s bottom line.

The notion doesn’t change completely to the extent that social entrepreneurs shouldn’t test new things and don’t need to gain a full doctorate degree in whatever they’re doing before starting.

There is still value in trying to innovate even when you don’t have all the answers — you will never have all of the answers.

However, the difference must be noted:

With for-profit work, your ROI is financial.

With non-profit work, your ROI is impact to human lives.

The same “ready, fire, aim” strategy used in for-profit business might not have the same net non-profit ROI when you consider the damage a poorly executed non-profit plan can have.