Do you have ideas but don’t do anything with them? Or maybe you are worried about wasting your efforts on a flop? Well let me tell you straight: The biggest reason new ideas fail is because the innovator (person with the idea) invests time, money and effort building solutions without properly understanding what the customer really wants and needs. Now you know this, here are some tips to help you gather evidence, make decisions before you move forward.
1. Identify the value you think the idea will deliver
Most good ideas solve problems for people. They offer solutions that give them benefits, fulfil their needs and meet their desires. Unpacking that, it means that the first thing you need to do is to find out who has the problem to solve and identify what benefit your idea can offer them. This is not what features you are going to build, but how it is going to improve their life / give them a better way to do something. At this point, it is good to see this as a hypothesis, you believe that if you do this thing it will give these people this benefit. Then we can set about putting this to research through the 7 steps of The Really Good Idea Test.
2. Question what you think you know and discover what you don’t
Do you have evidence that the problem exists? That the current solutions are substandard? That your target customer/user is open to a new solution? First off, you need to question what you think you know. Look yourself in the mirror and admit where you might be making some dangerous assumptions. Then, think through what you know you don’t know. This is usually where people start - they forget to question what they think they know but are really good at knowing what they don’t know. And now get this: There are going to be lots of things that you don’t even know you don’t know and the only way to discover them is to go speak to those people with the problems, ask the right carefully scripted questions, listen very carefully to what they say and dig deeper.
3. Find & speak to those potential beneficiaries of your idea face-to-face
Good advice says get out and go speak to these potential beneficiaries (customers / users) but it’s difficult to find practical advice on how to do that. This is where my 7 steps come in and guide you through. However, you must commit to getting face-to-face. Do not use a survey! Right now we are talking about understanding people’s problems, how big they are, how effective their current solutions are and you cannot delve into these emotional areas on a survey. You will miss seeing emotion through their body language and hearing their tone of voice; you won’t be able to ask follow up questions to find out more about an emotion you observe on their face, or when their voice wobbles and understand why they choose to use one particular word over another. Meeting them in person is great, and video is the next best thing now that we are all so used to it.
4. Take a neutral stance throughout that counteracts your natural bias
OK, so you’re bought into all of this, right? But it is very easy to bias the whole process. You are after evidence upon which to make decisions so you need to gather the evidence as objectively as you can. How do you make sure that you don’t hear just what you want to hear? The most obvious opportunity for bias is in how you construct and ask questions, but there are loads of other danger areas: How about the biases in who you decide are your target interviewees, how you recruit them and how you evaluate what they say to you? At each of my 7 steps there are opportunities to recognise and stamp out your own biases.
5. Get evidence how people feel, think and will behave before you invest in your idea
You have built a great product / proposition / experience but it fails. Why? The main element that innovators miss out is researching the “action” that they expect people to take. I have seen this so many times, where target customer/user groups love the idea but they would not pay for it; they would not be able or prepared to go through the bother of integrating it into their systems, they have concerns about downloading it, they would not be prepared to move from their existing supplier as it is too much effort and so on. So, the questions you ask them at this early stage need to be designed to get you actual evidence that they are prepared to take the action you need them to. You need to gather real examples, not have hypothetical discussions.
I have had years of experience moving ideas forward, so I know what works and what doesn’t. If you take a scientific and structured approach to testing ideas really early on, you will have a much better chance of success. Put your ideas to The Really Good Idea Test, use my templates to work them through, get out there speaking to customers as you read and get solid evidence to move forward with confidence knowing that you do have a good idea.
About the author
Julia Shalet, Product Doctor, is an award-winning innovator, who has managed high-value product portfolios & brought many successful new ideas to market across a broad range of sectors. She helps people move their ideas forward through hands-on workshops & “idea to good idea” research. She also teaches at UCL, the Chartered Institute of Marketing & helps PhDs nationwide to find commercial opportunities in their research.
The Guardian called her “one of Britain’s new radicals”, she was named in Harper’s Bazaar as a “top entrepreneur under 40” & she has been interviewed by the BBC.
Her book, The Really Good Idea Test, is a 2021 Axiom Business Book Award winner & it has also been published in German.
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