Julia Shalet 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 often 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.
1. What problem were you trying to solve with the book?
Everyone has ideas but which ideas are worth progressing? Originally grounded in the frustration at wasted time, effort & money when ideas flop, this book also helps people with good ideas to get off the starting block, rather than do nothing but talk about them. Let’s give all ideas a chance!
Best advice says go speak to customers but no one tells you how to do it. Who should you speak with? How can you find them? How should you structure those conversations? What questions do you need to ask them? How many people should you ask? How do you analyse what you hear from them? How can you stay neutral & not bias your research?
2. What surprised you most about writing the book?
People tend to enjoy working in areas that they are naturally good at. As I was writing each chapter, I had a number of people proofreading and at various points they were asking for more detailed explanations - “yes, but how do you actually do that?”. I realised that some of what I do is second nature, so natural & obvious to me but to others, it looked like a dark art. I was making assumptions about what readers would understand & given the premise for my book, that was very ironic. The point is that we must first identify all the assumptions we might be making about how people feel, think & behave, as these are the things that could trip us up later down the line.
3. What will the reader learn?
The reader will learn how to quickly & cheaply “test before they invest”, before building anything - brand, product or prototype. They will understand that they are doing this to evidence that their idea will be adding value to someone, that it will solve a big enough problem & that the existing solutions are below par.
As they take the journey from idea to good idea, they will find tips, templates & shortcuts to help them side-step common pitfalls along the way, such as how to avoid the many biases that can creep in & invalidate their research.
4. What does this look like in practice?
The reader is taken through 7 practical steps to ultimately gather evidence so that they can make a decision whether to move forward with their idea or not. They will be able to spring into action as they read, and start by interviewing just 5 potential customers / users / beneficiaries. They will learn how to ask the right questions, to the right people, in the right way. With lots of support around identifying & recruiting the target group to interview, the reader is also taken through “The Interviewer’s Workout” to hone their interviewing skills and how to assimilate the information that they get back.
5. How did you come to the view you describe in the book?
I have spent 25 years experience moving ideas forward across a diverse range of projects, organisations & sectors. Through in-house roles & my independent consultancy, Product Doctor, I have worked on & helped others to work through hundreds of new ideas. I have seen what works & what doesn't and what I write about will stop people wasting time, effort & money on ideas that are not going to fly.
I’ve watched my methods be tried & tested over many years by innovators in all walks of life and I’ve been able to hone them to maximise their impact & usefulness. I do what I say in my book - I have spent a lot of time with my audiences.
The most commonly cited reason for new ideas to fail is that innovators have not taken the time to properly understand what people need and want. Delivering on time and to quality metrics does not matter if people do not want what you have to offer. Whoever you are and whatever your idea is, these 7 steps will help you find out if your idea is worth pursuing before you invest time, money and effort.
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