Are you thinking about doing something innovative?

If so, stop that. Stop thinking, and act.

It is tempting to greet an idea with a call to “think things through” — to research, consider and consult. And of course, some thinking at the start is important. But in order to take your thinking to the next level — to really understand what needs to happen to make your idea successful — you must act. A single experiment is far more valuable than a mass of information.

I’ve used this “act first” approach for many decisions I’ve made as the CEO of Rakuten. It is how I’ve handled decisions as large as starting a baseball team — at the time in 2005, the first new entrant to Japan’s professional league in 50 years — and as small as what to serve in the stadium’s concession stand.

We were one of the first stadiums in Japan to serve hot wine. I’d seen the idea in my travels to other countries, and when I mentioned it to a team executive while watching a game during a chilly night, he didn’t think it sounded appealing at all. But we approached the idea by taking action; within a week he located a vendor and we added hot wine to our stadium offerings. Soon we had the data we needed: Hot wine was a hit. It stayed.

We didn’t research the product. We didn’t launch a focus group or field a study. We had an idea, and we acted. The results informed our thinking.

My “act first” process is not foolproof. It can result in mistakes. In other areas of my business, we’ve changed policies that drew criticism from our customers, launched services too early, and pursued acquisitions that failed to close. But I consider these necessary risks, taken in the pursuit of innovation. In business, there will always be ideas that fail and projects that disappoint. But we learn these things by acting.

Not every first action must be big. Say you have an idea for a business model. First, you should develop it on a small scale and base your next steps on the results. This kind of small experimentation is the key to innovation.

Don’t let thinking stop you from acting. It is through acting that your best thinking will emerge.

This article is inspired by Principle 9 from Mickey’s latest book, Business-Do: The Way to Successful Leadership. It was originally published on Rakuten.Today and also appeared on


  • Mickey Mikitani

    Founder, Chairman and CEO of Rakuten, Inc.

    Mickey (Hiroshi) Mikitani is the founder, chairman and CEO of Rakuten, Inc. Founded in Japan in 1997 with the mission to contribute to society by creating value through innovation and entrepreneurship, Rakuten has grown to become one of the world's leading internet services companies. Rakuten has a dynamic ecosystem of more than 70 services, spanning e-commerce, fintech, digital content and communications, bringing the joy of discovery to more than 1.3 billion members around the world. Rakuten also become Japan’s newest mobile network operator in 2019. In July 2017, Rakuten became the Main Global Partner and first-ever Global Innovation & Entertainment Partner of one of the world’s most admired soccer clubs, FC Barcelona, and, in September of the same year, became the first-ever jersey partner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. Born in Kobe, Mikitani was educated at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, began his career in investment banking, and earned his MBA at Harvard Business School. In 2012, he was awarded the HBS Alumni Achievement Award, one of the school’s highest honors. Mikitani is also a recipient of the Legion of Honour, awarded by the French government in recognition of contributions to the economy and culture of France. In 2011, he was appointed Chairman of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, which has the longest history and tradition of any orchestra in Japan, and serves as Representative Director of the Japan Association of New Economy (JANE). In 2015, Mikitani was appointed to the Board of Directors at Lyft, Inc.. In 2016, he was appointed Chairman and Director of Rakuten Medical, Inc. (formerly Aspyrian Therapeutics, Inc.), a biotechnology company developing a proprietary precision-targeted anti-cancer treatment platform, Rakuten Medical’s lluminoxTM, and also took up the role of CEO in 2018.