Enjoyability: The Missing -ility

Be careful what you wish for. Make sure that an idea is The Right It for you and not just for the market.

The photo above was taken at the conclusion of a pretotyping workshop at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (that’s me on the far left.) Hopefully you can detect that the smiles are genuine. The students learned a lot, and I really enjoyed teaching them; and that’s a hugely important and often overlooked aspect of “success”. Even after 4+ years and hundreds of pretotyping talks, workshops, hackathons and coaching, I still look forward to each and every event; I thoroughly enjoy what I am doing, and it keeps me going. Without enjoyment, you might have a viable business, but an unenviable work-life.

Are we having fun yet!

If you are already familiar with pretotyping, lean startup and design thinking, you’ve probably heard of the importance of the following ingredients for a product’s (or company’s) success:

Desirability: Will people want it?

Feasibility: Can we build it?

Viability: Can we make money with it?

You can’t build a successful and lasting business without them. But there’s fourth ingredient that people often overlook in their quest: enjoyability. And I am not talking about the product being enjoyable for the users (that’s always a plus, of course); I am talking about you enjoying and having fun building the product and running the company that makes it.

Just because you have an idea, you know how to implement it and you find that there is a market for it, it does not mean that you will enjoy working on it. Let me share an actual example with you.

A few weeks ago, an aspiring entrepreneur emailed me asking for advice on how to pretotype an innovative diaper service(!). He had read my book, watched my video and had already designed some clever pretotypes to test his hypotheses. He was ready to invest a small amount of money in online ads to validate the Initial Level of Interest (ILI) and to determine the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). Great!

I helped him to fine-tune his pretotypes, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking: “Diaper delivery? Yuck! Does he really want to be in this business?” I wanted to make sure that he also pretotyped what it would be like to run such an enterprise if it did prove viable. So I suggested that he should include a pretotype to see how he liked being in this business, to test the hypothesis: Would I enjoy (or at least tolerate) the day-to-day activities associated with executing my diaper delivery idea? Together we cooked-up a pretotype to help him test enjoyability. Here’s an excerpt from my email to him regarding this particular pretotype and experiment:

“[This pretotype] will teach YOU if this is a business that you want to be in. In addition to: Desirability (do people want it) Feasibility (can it be done), Viability (can it make money) you have to add Enjoyability (would YOU enjoy running a diaper delivery service as a business?) That’s a VERY important question. Pretotype not just to test the market but to test how YOU would like to be in this market. It’s a topic I should cover in my talks as many people get stuck in a business that is successful but that they don’t enjoy. That, to me, is a very pernicious form of success…”

Pretotyping’s slogan is “Make sure you find The Right It before you build It right”; what’s implied in it is that at some point you will have to also build it right to succeed, and that’s going to be hard to do if you heart is not in it and you don’t enjoy the day-to-day activities that are required to make it a success.

So, when you are cooking up pretotypes to test Initial Level of Interest, Ongoing Level of Interest, Customer Acquisition Cost and other metrics related to the end-users and market, make sure you include a pretotype to validate how you will enjoy being in this business if it turns out to be successful.

Thank you for reading and … may you always find The Right It in life as well as in business.