Feel the Pain

dysonI’ve talked a bit about value proposition design recently, and the need to get out of the building and find out what your customers really want. But what if this isn’t enough? And why is it that so many stories of inventors getting out of the building have  customers do the exact opposite of what was expected?

In this December interview with business review weekly, James Dyson (of cyclonic vacuum cleaner fame) said that:

To design well, one must have experienced the pain and frustration of an existing product not working well

To me, this means more than simply observing your customers in the field. This is about actually trying the product for yourself and living the customer journey. When you can bond with your customers over shared pain, and find a better way forward … that is where true insight comes from. Tim Brown of IDEO encourages us not to ask ‘what’, but to ask ‘why’. Understanding why your customers are behaving in the way they are, and being able to get inside of their heads through having shared their pain and frustration is essential if you want your customer discovery observations to provide real insight.

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The Vooza volcano is about to disrupt…

That’s right world, watch out. It’s Pinterest meets Instagram but for weddings or sandwiches or something. Actually we’re not really sure yet but its going to be a cloud based, social web app and its going to be local…with some wiki stuff. It’s the web app you never knew you wanted

Vooza is a mock startup poking fun at some of the latest buzz words in the startup industry. Posted as a series of short clips, the team have made fun of standup meetings, business model pivots, and the use of hype and buzzwords to launch non existent businesses. It’s also a quite brilliant marketing campaign for a string of legitimate value propositions. Look closely along their timeline and you’ll see Brand Bucket (a site where you can buy a ready to go logo, domain and company name for a couple of grand), Grasshopper (a virtual telephone network for small and medium sized enterprises) and a plug from the web hosting company the site uses.

So what’s so good about it?

  • The clips are funny. Really funny. Which means they’ve driven millions of visits to the site
  • The subject material is all startup based, neatly targeting the primary customer segments for the value propositions they are actually promoting
  • The site is on autoplay, and before you know it you’ve watched a genuine value proposition and are back on the funnies again
  • The clips are smart and the site is well linked to from big names like CNN, Huffington Post and the like. They get the material, understand their business and have persuaded some very big names that they are worth looking at. Instant credibility

If you haven’t seen the Vooza volcano yet, go check it out. If nothing else, the Radimparency clip will make you question the true genius of the pivot. When is a pivot a smart strategic play and when is it a random change made by a business with absolutely no idea? Enjoy

Business Model Reinvention

I once worked for a firm who found themselves going through a rough patch. With staff leaving left, right and centre the department was quickly dwindling to the point of no return. With no clear direction, a decimated sales pipeline, and a team of under motivated staff we were finally paid a visit by our otherwise inattentive divisional head. I still remember his opening comments for the one and only one hour workshop that was allocated to saving our skins:

So. Our business plan doesn’t seem to be working. Has anyone got any ideas what our new business plan should be. And can you make it fit on a single page of A4 so I can present it to the group strategy meeting at the end of the month. They like a lot of charts, so go easy on the word count.

And that was pretty much it. A somewhat stunned silence was met with a few half-hearted ideas and very little constructive discussion. The team was all gone within two months.

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