Empathize first, build-measure-learn later

Your biased mind sabotages the process. Use it to your advantage!

Developing a product the lean startup way sounds simple: stick to the (scientific) process and you will succeed (or at least your chances are higher). Well, most of us have experienced that it’s not that easy. In most cases build-measure-learn is a long and exhausting process. Often it takes much longer than thought to find a desirable, viable, and feasible product.

Creating hypotheses, sorting them based on risk and validating them one-by-one, sounds like a solid process. It is — in theory. But there is one problem with theory and practice:

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.

But why is there a difference? I think the answer is highly complex. But to put it in a nutshell: humans are biased and irrational in their ideas, opinions, and decisions. Everyone knows it’s bad (for the process) to fall in love with an idea, but we do. And then, we try to find ‚rational‘ reasons why it all makes sense. We deceive ourselves. Again and again.

Instead of trying to be a rational robot (and failing miserably), we should accept that we’re biased and irrational and start to use this to our own advantage.

How? Build deep empathy with your target audience first! Talk to them. Observe them. Learn about their behavior, their emotions, and their needs. Empathy will increase your confidence in your gut feeling. You will create the confidence to pursue the controversial solution because you feel that’s the right thing to try.

It’s like buying a gift for a good friend. If you see the right thing, you just KNOW that he/she will love it. That is the point where being an irrational and biased human is an advantage. Probably you can give a couple of reasons why it’s the right gift, but your subconscious mind knows a dozen more reasons. The human brain is extraordinarily good at making sense of a complex world — often through shortcuts (biases) and other hacks. But in this case, it works to our advantage.

Creating a strategy and vision based on empathy is a great advantage. Sure, it doesn’t guarantee success, but still, it’s a much better foundation to start experimenting.

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