“Are you a Computer Scientist? I have an idea …”. How many times I would have heard this phrase? It has a controversial reaction on me. On one side, I really like people that have ideas and people that consider I have enough skills to value their ideas. Or even to develop them. But in the other side, people who ask this question use to underestimate how difficult is to make real a concept. Beginning for the concept itself to the execution. I’m explaining the process I would follow to if I would have an idea in this post.
Everybody have an idea
First of all, everybody have an idea. We’re more than 7 billion souls in planet Earth. You have an idea in mind that has been thought for someone else before you. What I’m trying to say with this? A couple of things:
- You have to perform a deep investigation about your idea. In other words, you have to know if there is something similar working somewhere else. It will give you a lot of information about if the idea has impact in the target audience or not. This is also called Competitive Intelligence.
- Second, but not less important: the important thing is how to execute the idea, not the idea itself.
You have an idea that can be not innovative (a Tex-Mex restaurant), can be innovative incrementally (Cabify) or even disruptive (Google Glass). I will talk further about this in a future post. In any case, it doesn’t mean the “success potential” of your idea. It just give you an idea of how difficult your execution could be (but it is not necessarily attached).
How to validate an idea
In any of the categories seen above, the strategy to minimize the risks of failure (they are pretty high in any case) are similar. When I have an idea, I follow similar steps. These steps are:
- Problem Interviews: Notice that ideas are focused in “how to solve something”. But, needs this “something” to be solved? Interview as much people as possible. I do surveys, and target 100 of answers to be confident of the results. Besides, I do informal interviews to my friends, family… Finally, watch out about the type of questions you do! People lies. Don’t use conditional questions, you’ll have positive responses. However, they are probably not reflecting the truth.
- Analyze results: All of us have biases. These biases are higher when we think we have the reason about something. Try to be aseptic. For example, if 20% of the people interviewed or less have the problem, be sure they will pay enough for your solution. Does it worth it? It is up to you. But, please, avoid vanity metrics.
- MVP or Minimum Viable Product: You have to select the key features of your idea. Later, find the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to launch. Don’t worry about the perfection of the idea. For instance, don’t waste time in a beautiful design, the best technology… These are the features that are the icing on the cake.
- Analyze the results again: Are you having customers? Users? Feedback. Steve Blank summarize the next steps in one phrase: “No plan survives first contact with customers”. In other words, analyze what happened and adapt your product or service to your customer’s needs. Consequently, doing this constantly will reduce your chances to fail.
Following these steps will bring you closer to the “Product-Market fit”. In future posts we will talk about scaling products.
As you see, there are a lot of questions to yet be answered. The “I have an idea” question is not easy to solve. The variables that sum to the validation process are your product, your customers and your skills. Add these ingredients to the shaker and you will be closer to see your idea working for real.
To sum up, the process doesn’t ensure you success, but reduces you some headaches and probably will save you a bunch of bucks.
And you? How you face the process of validating new ideas?
I hope you have enjoyed!