Buzz vs Validation
It is easy to get excited about one’s ideas. That excitement increases with comments like “I like it!” and “radical idea!” from friends, colleagues and potential customers. You get a buzz.
But buzz is like sugar. Opinions drive short lived boosts of energy. It is a flywheel effect. You have a sense of urgency to start building and you want to be first in the market. But be careful with a future sugar crash. If you need to pivot one or more times, you may deplete your energy reserves and quit.
The antidote to sugar is protein in the form of validation. With protein you run a marathon, with sugar a sprint.
Validation is no longer about you or your idea. It is a structured and sustainable way to manage progress and learning. And it is not easy because buzz gets on the way. Otherwise, the failure rate of new businesses and products would be far lower.
Validation is about hard earned evidence testing assumptions to strive for better solutions. “I like it!” and “radical idea!” are fake news. Validation can save you energy, time and money earlier than buzz.
Validation is sustainable with a culture of experimentation. We all learned about the benefits of experimentation in school. The key is culture. The right culture unleashes learning organisations that are constantly adapting to the needs of customers and serving the needs of the business.
How you validate from idea to scale is an art and a science. There is no single path.
At the beginning, creativity is critical to learn fast and cheaply. Be ready to conduct pretotypes and prototypes before a single line of code is written or substantial physical investment. Weak vs strong evidence needs to be filtered as early as possible.
- User saying “tell me when you are done” or “will test it later”
- User booked to a research lab session
- User paid to give feedback
- User response in a survey to “I like this product” on a scale of 1-5
- User testing product in real life scenario
- User giving personal information (e.g. email, phone, address)
- User paying up front to buy first product iteration
- User giving time to co-create prototype
- User spending money (e.g. book a plane or buy new equipment) to test prototype
- User investing money to co-create prototype
After a product matures at scale, validation faces new challenges. First, more experiments will fail than succeed. The antidote at scale is to experiment more than ever to increase the odds of success. Second, a combination of qualitative and quantitative validation is essential. Quantitative data has no emotion – it can not answer why a behaviour change happened. Third, organisational design evolution can become more complex. New structures can have a negative impact on communication and collaboration. Inertia slows down innovation.
How can we action validation incrementally from idea to scale? Inspirational examples follow.
- Want to open a new restaurant for the first time? Validate your menu by first feeding your friends and local community. Starting a food truck is an opportunity to find more followers and test ideas before investing in a retail space.
- Want to start an e-commerce business? Validate with e-commerce platforms like Shopify before investing in a custom solution.
These scenarios have a common validation pattern. Think big, start small, and learn fast. Protein can help you remain strong and increase your chance of success.
If you want to learn more about ways to validate, I recommend these books: Inspired, Lean Startup, The Mom Test, The Right It.