The last week or so I have been busy building the first simple prototype of our upcoming app – a pre-MVP – for the MedTech startup, we’re working on getting off the ground. We will be getting it out there to get early feedback just after Christmas.
It is a daunting process.
Not only is it daunting to try to find the different pieces that when stitched together could form a somewhat crude but credible first go at what we will initially be trying to bring to market to create value for patients.
No, the most daunting part is that youre airing your idea(s) and inviting feedback from real potential users. And doing so full knowing that they can throw whatever they want in the form of feedback and criticism against you.
The prospects of getting feedback from people – or worse yet; hearing nothing at all because no-one will try it out – is so excruciating it can be a real challenge to push that ‘Publish’ button and get it out there.
But there is just no way around it;
If you never launch anything – not even a very crude, embarrasing prototype – you will by definition have failed completely.
So, reversely, by just getting something out there for people to provide feedback on is infinitely better and an infinitely greater step towards any kind of potential future success.
Back in the day I had a very experienced direct report who I used as a sounding board for thoughts and ideas to bring forward to executive management.
We would meet in my office (even though technically I didn’t have one), and we would go through the arguments, I had thought of making.
If I was off track, he would say in a very calm voice, while quietly shaking his head:
“Mads, that is junior behavior”.
And then he would follow it up with his interpretation of what senior behavior, aka the right sort of behavior, mingling, getting my point across needed to be successful with that particular project in that particular organization would be instead.
I listened. I better; he was usually right.
Since then I have always treasured having a sounding board and someone to lean on when things become a big hectic.
It is a nice contrast to my normal passionate, energetic ‘give-it-my-all-(alone)’-approach I often find myself (inadvertently) taking.
What I probably should become better at is making sure that I use the sounding board, when I need to and don’t leave it too long. But that too is a journey and learning experience waiting to be converted.
Yesterday we spend in prototyping mode. While a super interesting project, we have been working on for some time was starting to take shape for the first early user testing, I put some of the final touches on a pilot for another upcoming project, we’re testing out.
This is always when things start to become tricky. You can have what you believe to be the best idea ever in your head, but it is only when you show it to others – and particularly those who are going to (hopefully) become your customers that you will really know, whether you’re on to something or not. It can be really frightening.
But this is where you need to remember that the only thing that matters is customer feedback. And you can’t get any, if you don’t get it out there and start to get some reactions. And you can’t change things – pivot even – unless you get brutally honest feedback. Which, in turn, you need to be able to succeed. So. Just. Get. It. Out. There.
One of the great opportunities to learn something new and expand your horizon is to engage in conversation with someone you don’t agree with. You might still have disagreements after your conversation, but at least you have gotten the opportunity to get some perspective. And boy, do we often need that.
For that reason I always seize on the opportunity to reach out to people who have indicated that a shared experience left them somewhat lost or basically made them quit. Because I want to get a chance to at least understand where things went wrong as seen from the other side.
It is so easy to just ignore people who complain or give something you have done a bad review. And yes, it can be daunting to confront criticism, because if you are passionate about what you do, you know that it is going to sting and even hurt. But it is worth it. It adds perspective. It gives you the opportunity to reflect, which is always good. And no, it won’t kill you.
Yesterday I met with an former colleague who stepped down from a C-level job to essentially become a landlord renting out spare rooms in his house and making a nice flexible living doing so. It was very inspiring – and surprising.
We took a walk, and he ‘walked’ me through his business and how he operates it. How he essentially tests every little twist and turn with his guests in order to figure out what works and what doesn’t. And how he always keeps his eye on the operational aspect of it all making sure that the operation is as automated as it can get and relies as little as possible on him actually being there to take care of things.
The operational aspect was mindblowing; always staying one step ahead thinking about everything making sure that what you do is manageable from an operations point-of-view – not making it too complex in the process. The idea is fascinating and intellectually stimulating, and I think there is a lot of value to be had there for start-ups by thinking along the same lines to make things efficient, reduce burn-rate etc. I will definitely be working more on that.
The other day I invited a good acquintance to come and visit us at inQvation and to provide feedback on an idea, we’re toying with. The latter part made sense given that this person has about 30 years of experience within the industry, where our idea potentially offers a new angle on things.
I asked him to talk straight from the gut and tell me what he thought. And his first words resonated deeply: “Ideally speaking this idea is great. Unfortunately, the world – and this industry is not ideal”. And then he went on to provide amazing feedback on potential blind spots and pitfalls based on his wealth of experience, we hadn’t considered at all, and which proves to be critical hypothesis, we need to spend time trying to find a workaround for. Otherwise our idea will tank.
When we said goodbye he apologized for being so candid. But I insisted he shouldn’t and that this was the best feedback we could get at this point in time. Because it showed us some of the potential blind spots we would have essentially zero chance of figuring out on our own. And that is a god sent. Because the blind spots – left unattended – are the ones that could end up killing your idea and/or business.
The other day I spent a good chunk of the day browsing the web reading up on reviews on how current solutions address a particular problem we are looking at giving a new spin on at inQvation Studio. It was most illuminating.
Of course there is always the risk of you being biased by the idea(s) already in your head, when you do something like that. But no matter what getting insigths into what is already out there and why it’s (not) working is absolutely essential for early and very simple validation.
So, the next time you think about an idea and whether it has the potential to make a dent, start by going online and read up on those that went before you. Chances are that customers reviews, anecdotes and so forth will provide you with a much better starting point that anything you can dream up in that creative mind of yours all in your own. It’s real out there.