How can you be sure an idea will work and customers will pay for it?

Leslie Barry
Oct 3, 2019 · 4 min read
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The Right It and the Wrong It

Why so much failure?

Thirty thousand new consumer products launch annually, and 95% of them fail. This stark statistic means that out of those 30,000 ambitious, excited and hopeful innovators, no fewer than 28,500 of them are left mourning their dream product or service. To presume that the majority of those ideas were poorly executed is ridiculous. A great many are generated by sharp minds and brought to fruition by crack-teams of experts.

So why do so many fail? Why? What are those thousands of dedicated individuals and organisations doing wrong and what’s the answer to the puzzle of launching a successful product?

The fact is that these people have:

  • created a new product or service,
  • done the research and the marketing,
  • found the right team to help them along the way

but they’re still failing! There must be something wrong with the product.

It’s not the “Right It”.

What makes something the Right It though? And how can we be confident that it is the Right It before we’ve wasted months or even years in development?

Alberto Savoia, Google’s one-time Innovation Agitator, was asking the same questions when he came up with the concept of Pretotyping and has since shared his processes with innovation leaders globally.

How can I be sure something is the Right It?

It’s not enough to have a lightbulb moment and dream up what you or your team see as a perfect product or service. Most people can manage that; even children engage in the idea of inventing or creating new products all the time, it’s not a special skill.

Having an idea doesn’t mean you’re going to succeed. Prototyping that idea and then garnering opinions on it will result in nothing more than that…opinions. Opinions are not worth a thing. They’re no evidence of anything because they’re subjective and inconsistent.

Having a great idea that you can be sure will work, that you know people will pay for even before it’s fully developed probably does point to success. But how can you get to that point? How can you be sure the idea will work and be confident that people will pay for it?

By Pretotyping it.

Pretotyping is nothing like prototyping. Prototyping requires the specialised and expensive process of creating a prototype. Pretotypes are fast, low-cost or even no-cost preference tests which validate whether a new idea will appeal to the market. The Pretotype is created as soon as the idea occurs and can take a few hours or a few days to create.

Pretotypes don’t focus on “will this work if we build it”, but on “should we build this at all?”

Google Glass v Palm Pilot

Put the right team together, and you can build the most ridiculous products ever. Even the brightest minds, coupled with some investment, come up with many worthless and unpopular products with no trouble at all…and they do. All the time.

The (un)clear need for Google Glass

Look at one of the most famous fails of all time, Google Glass. Why did this seemingly attractive and exciting product bomb?

Because nobody knew what it was for when they’d use it or even why they’d use it!

Everyone knew what it did, but there was no clear need for it. It’s two main selling points were that it allowed users to take pictures or scroll through the internet quickly, but with just a 2–3-hour battery life, it could not compete with faster and superior products. Nobody wanted to wear the weird-looking contraption because it looked odd and made others uncomfortable.

Another lesson in market timing here. Who would imagine in 2019 that you would NOT want pictures or video taken of yourself ;-)

This was a product which had been created by the best in their business, with plenty of investment but which still failed. Because it was the Wrong It.

The wooden Palm Pilot

Pretotyping cuts to the chase. Building a cheap, dummy version of a new idea and then “using it” as though it were real is one of the key approaches. It’s exactly what Jeff Hawkins, the creator of the Palm Pilot did instinctively when he first had his lightbulb moment.

He didn’t run out and invest millions in building a prototype. He built a Pretotype.

( A small admission — I recently visited the Palm Pilot Pretotype at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View )

He made a fake Palm Pilot in his garage from a block of wood, and he then pretended to use it. Sketching on buttons and imagining what each would do, whipping it out at opportune moments and thoroughly enjoying the fantasy.

In this way, Jeff Hawkins worked out the validity of the idea.

  • Would it be something he’d want to use?
  • Would he remember to use it?
  • Would he be comfortable using it?

Of course, there’s more to Pretotyping than the idea of dummy products…there are tools, strategies and tactics designed to take your ideas from imagination and into reality. If it’s the Right It.

Finding the Right It

And that’s the fundamental strength of Pretotyping. It saves potentially years of heartache and effort by helping innovators discover the Right It through the sort of valuable data that is impossible to come by through more traditional methods of innovation.

Discover more about the Right It and the Wrong It and how Pretotyping Certification and consulting can help you and your team succeed.

Leslie Barry

Leslie Barry

Written by

Director + Founder at Working with companies to help innovators build The Right It using Pretotyping. 4 startups, 2 sold, 2 lessons.

Leslie Barry

Director + Founder at Working with companies to help innovators build The Right It using Pretotyping. 4 startups, 2 sold, 2 lessons.

Leslie Barry

Written by

Director + Founder at Working with companies to help innovators build The Right It using Pretotyping. 4 startups, 2 sold, 2 lessons.

Leslie Barry

Director + Founder at Working with companies to help innovators build The Right It using Pretotyping. 4 startups, 2 sold, 2 lessons.

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