How about giving your product ideas’ testing some more rigour? Yes, for creativity and innovation to deliver value, they require a degree of deliberation and process of which testing is the crucial step. You gloss over at your peril.
But first, before asking the team for new products ideas and selecting any of them for testing, are you confident your people can articulate the business strategy, i.e. where those new products should get you? If yours is a typical organisation, the strategy was probably delivered by either an external experts “for your eyes only” or an internal strategy team in a darkroom. In effect, most of your people are familiar only with some top headlines. Here is a brilliant hbr article on how to remedy this lack of comms and disseminate the information effectively, so you won’t be wasting your team’s creative juices without giving them clear direction of travel. And once you captured plenty of ideas, use your strategic objectives to transparently select the most promising ones for testing.
Now, why testing? Because it’s rare for ideas to succeed in their original form. To be successful, they need to be tested and tweaked to better address customers’ needs. Only then, you should dream of launching them at scale. You often hear entrepreneurs pivot. So, if you would like to adopt entrepreneurial ways of working, this is a perfect place to start.
But before you get serious about executing testing, tweaking, or abandoning the ideas altogether, you do have to become comfortable with embracing failure. The concept of “failing fast” has been trending in the entrepreneurial circles and innovation theatres for a while. But its buzz shouldn’t be an invitation for you to be cavalier about it. Instead of “celebrating failure”, think about it as a way of validating learning upon which the end product can be improved.
Another thing for you to get comfortable about is that testing is a bit of a science that favours experimentation and clinical knowledge over storytelling and hearsay. “The corporate startup” lists core principles for you to apply in your scientific endeavours. Here is their essence:
- Scepticism — do not believe in your own hype, i.e. your product is not as cool as you think.
- Empiricism — base your decisions on data and evidence. Talk to your customers, and you will make products that people want.
- Hypothesis Driven — transform your assumption into hypothesis and use the data and evidence you gathered to test its plausibility.
- Falsifiability — ensure that based on your assumptions, you develop the hypothesis that are testable and have a minimum fail and success criteria, so it’s possible to quickly see when the premises are wrong, and move on.
So now, dawn your white lab coat and apply those principles to your innovation framework at which core is the “create — test — learn — iterate” loop. Then follow these few simple steps.
First, capture and review all your product idea’s assumptions. For this, consider using the Business Model Canvas as it will help you to imagine your product in the real world. The Canvas will guide you through questions from what value the product will be bringing to customers, to how much do you think it will cost to make it.
Next, brainstorm how you’re going to test your assumptions, and chose a couple of experiments for you to focus. The experiments could range from a simple landing page with an A/B testing call to action, an explainer video followed by a survey, or a crowdfunding page to test the customers’ willingness to pay. For a comprehensive list of experiments, I recommend you download “The Real Startup Book”. It’s free and packed full of good ideas.
Before you kick off your experimentation, rank all the assumptions in terms of their impact on your idea’s business model. The riskiest ones can now be transformed into a falsifiable hypothesis, by setting minimum success / fail criteria, e.g. 6 out of 10 customers would pay $10 for the product.
Ultimately, the critical question at the end of each experiment is whether the evidence supports your assumptions and what implications the foundings have on the business model. If they don’t support the business model, now it’s time to pivot… or stop the project altogether and move onto the next big idea.
Create. Test. Learn. Repeat.