Use this 5 (+1) steps structured process to quickly explore, define, develop and validate new business ideas
Traditionally, companies spend ages on defining the scope of a project, the perfect solution which goes through multiple iterations and multiple approvals before a single customer even has the chance to give critical feedback. “Over-engineering” happens too often as no huge company would like to be embarrassed by a prototype or beta-version. As a consequence, many products fail or are not being accepted by the customers as expected.
This post should serve as a WHAT-to-do introduction to a structured and repeatable process to ideate, prototype, and validate new business ideas with real-life user feedback to choose the right problems to solve and give first hints of possible solutions, to tackle uncertainty and risk in the shortest possible time, while maximizing validated learning for the business.
In future posts, I will deep dive into the HOW, give hands-on tools to support the process and achieve the best outcomes.
What’s in it for me?
- An understanding how to focus on the most pressing issues from your customers’ perspective and define the right problems to solve
- A process to Ideate on different solutions and select the most promising ones
- An understanding of prototyping to gather validated information
- Validated learning and tested assumptions with critical feedback from real users
- A quick and cheap way to test if you are on the right track
In general, I will talk about 2 buckets today: Ideation and validation.
I would define the ideation process as Identifying a customer with a specific problem and develop a valid solution approach. Problems can also be challenges your organization is facing, but to be customer-centric and focus on true market needs, you should rather start with the consumer perspective.
To get to these solution approaches we have to follow a number of steps:
1. Problem/Need Exploration
Meaningful innovation starts with the people you build for.
Therefore we have to empathize with a specific target customer segment and identify their unsolved problems and needs and spot opportunities in their motivations, pains and potential gains. You have to understand preferences and considerations for decision-making.
But always remember this is YOUR point of view. So even if you try to be “consumer-centric” true consumer-centricity only works talking to...drum roll... the consumer.
So once you come up with ASSUMPTIONS regarding your customers’ needs, pains and gains you have to realise CUSTOMER INTERVIEWS to validate if your assumptions were true or false.
If you have a lot of true assumptions go forward and create a clear customer-problem/need -statement in the form of a pitch slide or poster. If you have a lot of false assumptions start the whole process again.
2. Solution design
Solution design is basically generating new ideas to solve specific customer problems identified in step 1 which in the end should lead to new products and services that your organization can provide.
The idea in the solution-design-phase is to give the teams the right tools (I will get to those in future posts…) to ideate on new solution approaches.
A good approach to start is to define an end goal creating “how-might-we statements” (solution for target group solving their need/pain + condition) e.g. “How might we create a sugar-free and natural energy drink for students without adding caffeine.”
To understand the tasks or jobs of your customer segmetn it is important to map the whole customer journey detailing how a customer becomes aware of your brand, their interactions with your brand/product/service, how do they buy, how will they use it etc. Within the customer journey, you can identify potential problems or needs to solve.
Then you can explore different solution approaches and generate critical assumptions to test and design a clear value proposition.
3. Concept selection and refinement
In the next step, you have to pick the right idea and prioritise solutions and which features to build to validate your assumptions.
Critique, refine and cluster ideas, polish or reframe them again to get the best possible outcome.
Define the most critical assumptions to test and fail criteria and success metrics to use them as a guideline when building the prototype.
4. Prototype development
Take your notes from step 3 and convert them into a storyboard for the prototype.
Now think about the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way possible to validate your assumptions. Nothing more. It’s not about getting close to the final product or service. Don't think about a fully functional and scalable solution. Again. It’s about testing critical assumptions.
Validation = We prove that customers commit to our value proposition and generate value for them.
To get a valid idea of how your prototype is performing and if your value proposition is accepted, test your prototype with at least 10 customer interviews to gain input and feedback to iterate your product.
Learn and observe how your potential customers are interacting with your prototype and try to refine it in market success uniting customer problems, brand values, and your business needs.
Now take an evidence-based decision if this product/service is ready to be build in a scalable way.
Basically this 5 step process confirms the DESIRABILITY of your future product and service.
To test the FEASIBILITY of the new business you’ll have to add the +1 =
+1 Business model generation
You need a new robust business model for the new venture. Otherwise, we are only talking about a nice idea. The key to a sustainable business model is ensuring that all stakeholders in the ecosystem are delivering and capturing items of value.
In this step you have to discover potential revenue streams and relevant business model dynamics like cost structure, revenue streams and unit economics. We will deep dive into the business model generation in one of the next posts.