When you try to do something completely new, the only way you will know whether customers like it or reject it is if you show it to them.
This is precisely the argument for why you should be running experiments again and again, as you try to move forward from idea to a product or a service; you need to take stock of your customers to see, if you are essentially on the same page as they are. It not, redo, retool, relaunch or just stop.
Show your ugliness. Give your idea a spin. A little time and money invested in the right experiments go a long way into guiding the big product decisions that are truly costly.
The most common problems with strategy is that (a) it can be extremely poorly based on actual insight and data about market and customers and (b) it tends to become antique the moment, you have dotted the last i and crossed the last t in the grand plan.
When I recently tought a group of students at Aarhus Erhvervsakademi and Dansk Markedsføring about digital strategy and business development one of my main messages was that strategy today is not a plan. It is a set of hypothesis about market, customers and bets, we can make that we set ourselves goals towards trying to achieve. And remain flexible towards revisiting when needed. Not in terms of overall vision and goals but on the road towards that goal.
Strategy today is a fluent thing and with all the unknowns out there and the constant changing landscape, you need to be prepared to have your core hypothesis invalidated at any point in time. You need to be able to adapt, and you need to do so by defining new hypothesis that you can design your evolving strategy and market approach around. Everything else is – at best – wishful thinking.
Some ideas intuitively makes sense. Other ideas seem just about the most stupid thing, you have ever heard of. Yet, while the former can go on and become a viable idea, the dumb idea more often than not end up making a killing.
Andrew Chen calls it “The Dumb Idea Paradox”. I would just suffice to say it is a pointed reminder of one of the core guiding principles I have; you just can’t sit at your desk and expect to figure out the next big thing. You need to go out there, be curious and – as part of that process – challenge your own assumptions.
For some people betting on dumb ideas is the thing that they do. Maybe they just do it once, but it will be all that matters, once the idea takes off. For the rest of us, we need to tell ourselves that “no idea is that dumb” again and again while giving it enough benefit of the doubt to at least experiment and play with. Because, more often than not, no idea really is that dumb.
*: Of course there are really dumb ideas out there, and most of us intuitively know what they are. So there are exceptions to the rule, but expect the rule to be the rule.
During the years I have met many people who have been incredibly frustrated trying to make good use of Business Model Canvas. They often follow a traditional hype cycle, where they start up enthusiastically and full of energy and purpose only to burn out after a week or two with little progress.
While it is easy to blame the tool, the tool is not to blame here. It is more about how people are trying to use it and how little knowledge they have about effectively using it. Because Business Model Canvas can be an incredible useful tool – if you know how to use it to orchestrate building your business model.
It is a hard thing to teach, so the best thing is to show it. Luckily there is a poster boy example of stellar use of it from the International Business Model Competition in 2013, where OWLET knocked it out of the park and won with their incredible use of the model. Go and watch the video here – and then go and get the true value out of Business Model Canvas.
Countless times when people talk about doing an MVP, what they are really deep down looking to do is something that resembles the finished product. Or at the very least should be used as a quite feature heavy and robust stepping stone towards the finished product.
It is a misconception though. MVPs in its original definition are meant to be thrown away. They are meant to be product-imitations showcasing a critical hypothesis for your idea to potential customers in order to get hard data on what happens, when you throw it out there and – hopefully – the right people start taking notice and interact with it.
Looked at through that lens the MVP is just one way of validating your business idea and underlying hypothesis. In the test-library, I use, there are 59 other methods just like it. It is just a way of testing whether you can validate your idea and your critical assumptions. Nothing more.
The more you think you know about something, the more you should push yourself to look under the hood.
There is always something there that annoys your view of the problem. Something that doesn’t fit. But that something adds valuable perspective to what you’re working on, and more often than not it can be the true differentiator for your success.
I have always found that even though I have worked within a particular sector a number of times before and think I am pretty well covered, there is always valuable insight under the hood as soon as I curiously and unbiased start looking. My bet is that you will experience the same.
Should the person who comes up with an idea also be the one who straight out of the blocks evaluate its desirability, feasibility and viability? Probably not due to the obvious risk of bias. It is also why we have some tools for ideation and another set of tools for assessment and validation.
The really funny thing about the article in Harvard Business Review though is the finding that companies tend to put an excess value on ‘ideas’ presented by the upper tiers in the organization, while ideas from the floor tend to be oversold and thus often not really gets taken under consideration. It is actually thought provoking when you think a bit about it.
It seems like a big potential loss. Experience shows that the closer people get to the problem through their day-to-day jobs, the more valuable ideas for improvements they come up with. Somebody in upper management should apply their sales skills to help the people downstream sell their valuable ideas the right way.
Today marks a truly exciting new chapter in my professional life as I embark on a new role as Head of Studio at InQvation in Taastrup on the outskirts of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Together with the greatest colleagues, you can imagine, I will be running experiments on ideas for new businesses with the goal of validating them enough to enable us to build great companies with strong teams set for success.
I will be utilizing all my passion and experience from developing and validating concepts and business models, and I look so much forward to this insanely cool challenge.