It has been a hectic 10 weeks since I joined inQvation as Head of Studio; brand new team forming, lots of things to put in place in order to enable us to have solid structure for what we have set out to do, lots of ideas under consideration and lots of interesting projects to contribute to one way or the other.
The fun has been immense so far. The inQvation team is stellar in every way, ambition is through the rough in the best possible way, and we laugh a lot. All traits of a place, you’re eager to head off to every single morning, and honestly a place that could well serve as an inspiration to many other companies.
So now it is time to take a small summer break. The kids are eagerly awaiting spending some quality time together as a family, and for the next three weeks I will indulge them fully. I will be back – and normal service will resume here – on August 12. Be ready and strap yourselves in when we get there, because it is going to be amazing.
Yesterday I met with an former colleague who stepped down from a C-level job to essentially become a landlord renting out spare rooms in his house and making a nice flexible living doing so. It was very inspiring – and surprising.
We took a walk, and he ‘walked’ me through his business and how he operates it. How he essentially tests every little twist and turn with his guests in order to figure out what works and what doesn’t. And how he always keeps his eye on the operational aspect of it all making sure that the operation is as automated as it can get and relies as little as possible on him actually being there to take care of things.
The operational aspect was mindblowing; always staying one step ahead thinking about everything making sure that what you do is manageable from an operations point-of-view – not making it too complex in the process. The idea is fascinating and intellectually stimulating, and I think there is a lot of value to be had there for start-ups by thinking along the same lines to make things efficient, reduce burn-rate etc. I will definitely be working more on that.
It is so easy being designated as the one who just says “No!” to everything and whose largest contribution to the team is to foster a negative energy in every room you enter. But have you ever thought about how these people may actually be trying to do something completely different and of immense value?
If you think they are assuming that your project will fail, maybe they are just trying to see the warning signs ahead of time to let you know where to look again, make changes – and ultimately succeed? Maybe they are just as invested in your common success as you are?
There is actually a term for it in project terms: Doing a pre-mortem; assuming that the project has just died and then work your way backwards from there in order to find the risks, you should see and address before it is to late. Given how many projects fail, maybe it is an exercise worth remembering?
I often talk about the need to meet with customers and understand what their needs are. But I also often struggle in getting through with the message of what the real potential of doing so is. So let me try it a slightly different way.
When we sit down with potential customers, or we visit them in their natural environment, we get a chance to ask questions and – most importantly – listen. And when we listen, we get an opportunity to uncover the dreams of our customers.
Dreams are funny. They are for many people characterized by three things: First of all it is something we would really like (to happen), second the acknowledgement that I am not there yet and it is out of reach and third a lingering idea that maybe it will stay a dream forever.
Tuning into the dream will give you the same three things to innovation on: A clear desire, an opportunity to be relevant and – following from that – a chance of creating an epiphany moment for them that they will reward by not only buying, what you have created, but also staying loyal to it. What’s not to like?
The other day I invited a good acquintance to come and visit us at inQvation and to provide feedback on an idea, we’re toying with. The latter part made sense given that this person has about 30 years of experience within the industry, where our idea potentially offers a new angle on things.
I asked him to talk straight from the gut and tell me what he thought. And his first words resonated deeply: “Ideally speaking this idea is great. Unfortunately, the world – and this industry is not ideal”. And then he went on to provide amazing feedback on potential blind spots and pitfalls based on his wealth of experience, we hadn’t considered at all, and which proves to be critical hypothesis, we need to spend time trying to find a workaround for. Otherwise our idea will tank.
When we said goodbye he apologized for being so candid. But I insisted he shouldn’t and that this was the best feedback we could get at this point in time. Because it showed us some of the potential blind spots we would have essentially zero chance of figuring out on our own. And that is a god sent. Because the blind spots – left unattended – are the ones that could end up killing your idea and/or business.
What does it mean to have something of real economic value that customers want? Is it to have the best product within a category worth an extra charge, or is it to have a product that sits so well with the belief system of the customer that they are willing to pay a premium price for?
Luckily, it seems to be the latter. And it is great for a couple of reasons.
First of all, it vindicates those who strive for domination within a niche by building run-of-the-mill products that are just cheaper for customers to buy. Personally, I have never been a big fan of competiting on price because I don’t fance the end game; essentially free offerings. Second, I find it reassuring that despite everything else that is going on, customers are still looking to pay decent money for offerings that fits well with their personal belief system(s). This should be a welcome call-to-arms for everybody working on making customers better off.
Greg Satell makes a very important point when arguing that even the best ideas cant’ make it on their own – they all need an ecosystem to thrive. Without they risk losing out to lesser ideas properly seeded through various channels. And that is – often – a real shame.
The point is worth mentioning because a lot of people with great ideas are very protective of them. For one, they fear someone will steal their idea, while in reality there are most probably already at least one or two competing teams working on the same thing somewhere in the world. Second, they want the most possible ownership to the idea, fully forgetting that it’s better to have 50 percent of a winner than 100 percent of a loser.
From all my experience in working with partnerships and – by extension – ecosystems, it seems to me that people still don’t really ‘get’ it when it comes to creating win-win relationships. If you start to think about it, it is a scary amount of potential value creation that gets left on the table every single day.
This summer I am trying to teach myself how to do visual programming using Bubble. I have been trying to get a better understanding of coding for years but never had the patience for it. Bubbles visual approach is a lot more appealing to me.
Why am I doing it? Because I like being able to execute on the ideas, we’re working with at inQvation Studio. I like being able to take the next step from a workshop or a discussion and actually get things done. Be concrete. Get something out there.
I am very aware that what we can do with tools such as Bubble or Unbounce or Typeform and what have you is not the finished article. Not by a stretch. But it is something. It moves the needle in the right direction for what we are trying to do at the studio team. And it is a lot better than nothing.
(Photo: Product Hunt)
The other day I spent a good chunk of the day browsing the web reading up on reviews on how current solutions address a particular problem we are looking at giving a new spin on at inQvation Studio. It was most illuminating.
Of course there is always the risk of you being biased by the idea(s) already in your head, when you do something like that. But no matter what getting insigths into what is already out there and why it’s (not) working is absolutely essential for early and very simple validation.
So, the next time you think about an idea and whether it has the potential to make a dent, start by going online and read up on those that went before you. Chances are that customers reviews, anecdotes and so forth will provide you with a much better starting point that anything you can dream up in that creative mind of yours all in your own. It’s real out there.
Having worked with technology and product development for close to 20 years, I have never considered myself someone who was fascinated by technology for technologys own sake. Rather I have been – and continue to be – fascinated by what kind of problems technology can help solve.
Case in point: New search seems to indicate that in a not too distant future, Amazons Alexa can predict a lot of cases of cardiac arrests by listening in on your breathing patterns potentially saving thousands of lives in the process by triggering an emergency call and making sure that help arrives in time.
It is a huge win, if it somes to market. Of course there are all the usual caveats about privacy, surveillance and such, but if the promise is that a device can potentially save your life, is that a tradeoff you as a customer is willing to make? My bet is that it will be for a lot of people. Because this kind of appliance of technology truly matters in the deepest most personal sense of the word.