To read the commentary on Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet would lead one to assume that a failure of epic proportions is unfolding. 

To read some of the commentary on Benedict Cumberbatch’s interpretation of Hamlet, currently in previews at the Barbican in London, would lead one to assume that a failure of epic proportions is unfolding. 

The “To be, or not to be” soliloquy was moved to the beginning of the production, and then back again to its original position in act three.

Some believe the star has overreached himself and a radical idea has been shown to be foolish.

But experimentation is surely what previews are for. 

Maybe the grand speech will move again before they are over. To prove the pudding before being invited to tuck into the actual dinner deprives the chef of the chance to experiment, innovate and perfect.

Fast and cheap prototyping

Few business plans survive their first contact with the customer. 

And many of the most successful are incomplete: neither Facebook nor Google had a clear notion of their revenue model at launch. Trial, risk-taking, feedback, and course correction are essential to ultimate success.

Retail has the advantage over many industries that prototyping is generally fast and cheap. If carefully controlled, downsides can be not much more than a couple of nights’ misfires in the theatre.

There is rarely any necessity for the grand launch of a Tesco Fresh & Easy, unveiled fully formed to an indifferent public. Thorough market study was unable to offset costly missteps.

Fat Face seems to be taking a more sequential tack in its US entry, with a dedicated website launched first, followed by a small number of pilot stores in one region. 

If lessons are learned and flexibility maintained, this approach stands a better chance of winning the audience’s ultimate acclaim.

  • Michael Jary is partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants