Lean Prototypes

The first step in starting a new business or running with an idea is to find out what problem you are solving. In Customer Development this period is known as customer discovery. It consists of two essential tasks:

  1. Run tests that confirm whether or not there is a problem, and that there are customers who need to solve that problem
  2. Run tests that confirm whether or not your idea, solution or product solves that problem

You’ll notice that I have started right up front by talking about running tests. Why? Because sitting at home guessing whether or not your idea will work is a waste of time. You need to go and find out.

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The Art of Lean Prototypes

What is a prototype for? In terms of customer development it is there to help us discover the scalable business model that best meets our customer’s needs. The first 30 slides or so of this presentation summarise the key points really well:

  • Fail early and cheaply – don’t wait until launch to find out if your idea works, start now. The idea is to cycle through as many cheap, disposable prototypes as it takes to discover what your customers want. If you invested so little time in your prototype that you don’t mind throwing away and starting again…you are on the right track
  • Make it real – don’t just talk about your idea, show people. The prototype is how you communicate your idea to others
  • Test your assumptions – business models are based on a series of assumptions, e.g. ‘these are my customers’, ‘this is the product they want’, ‘they will pay $X for it each month’ … the prototype is where you test these assumptions. It’s also where you change (or pivot) your business model until you have something that works. Doing a survey is not enough, you need to actually verify your plan with a testable product of some sort.
  • Iterate fast – each time you bust an assumption, start again. Build another prototype that does support your assumptions… or change your assumptions

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Redesigning the Hiring Process

I really liked this article on students participating in the teacher hiring process. Whilst the author identifies the problems of asking 10 year olds to interview and question teachers, she cites the example of her 8-year-old participating in a demonstration lesson. This allowed current teachers to observe how the candidate taught, as well as being able to interview students on what it was like being taught by this teacher.

If only more job interviews were like this. These are the main points:

  • Why ask someone if they can do the job when you can ask them to show you?
  • Why stop at the manager for hiring decisions? They won’t have to work with this person, so ask those who will. Don’t just guess if they will be a cultural fit, find out

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Gamification for Innovation Management

You’ve probably already heard that Gartner predict that over half of businesses who have an innovation management process will gamify that process by 2015. The underlying concepts seem to be around suggestion box style innovation initiatives, and gamification as an engagement tool to get more ideas through the process. But is this a flawed line of thought? Let’s take a look…

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Business Plans Don’t Work

Note: I first published this article here, on Innovation Excellence. It got a bit of discussion on the site and through linkedin so I thought I’d report it here.

Business plans don’t work. Nine out of ten business start-ups, and one in six business transformations will confirm it. Learning from the failures of the past, it becomes clear that we have been missing a key step in the execution of our business plans. That key step is the discovery of what works. In this three part series, I’ll look at the way in which business plans lead to failure, the way in which business model innovation can help, and the mindset that is needed to succeed in discovering a new path towards business success.

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Using Design Thinking for Customer Development

Design Thinking starts with the end in mind, and focuses on the consumer and not the producer. This is very different from a problem led approach. By moving us firmly away from the perspective of product development, this approach is much better suited to actually finding out who your customers are and what they will pay for.

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