One of the things I spend a significant amount of time on is devising, designing and running experiments on various different ideas for new concepts. It is both fun and challenging.
The challenging part is mostly about not reverting to the same 2-3 types of experiments and use them again and again. But because it is wrong to do so, and you might develop bias. But also because there are actually a lot of different ways, you can design and run experiments based on what kind of hypothesis, you’re trying to (dis)prove.
For that reason I have built yet another Excel-model; a simple database of all the different experiments, we know and can run with titles, applicable stages, ‘how to’-recipies and our know-how and experience in running them with valid results. Using the filter option on that one quickly allows me to narrow down the list of useful experiment-types for any given idea, broaden our horizon – and generate better results.
It is really that straightforward.
One of the things that really excites me is to investigate problem spaces to see if there are any good solutions to the problems at hand – or if there is an abundance of opportunity to do better.
I think that Mike Shipulski has an interesting point in arguing that instead of talking about disruption, we should be talking about how we get from “No” to “Yes”; how we create solutions that are above and beyond the existing solutions when it comes to actually solving the problems or meeting the needs of the customer.
I like it because it is almost a binary choice rather than a fluffy, watered down concept; how can we make something that wasn’t possible before and let the customers be better off? I think that binary, straight forward question is the key to a lot of success in innovation.
If you are working on creating anything new, anything outside the norm, you know that it can be a daunting task. You know that it can feel impossible at times, and you know that you can get to the point where you really doubt what you’re doing, and how to proceed with confidence.
Thankfully, there is a great book to support you in your quest. And yes, it is in fact called “How to Lead a Quest”, and it is written by Dr. Jason Fox. I highly recommend it. It is both a super guide, a great inspiration and – at times – a great comfort.
Not only will you get to see that the ups and downs you and your project(s) go through are totally normal and actually a part of the plan and of doing it right. And there are lots and lots of tips and tricks for how to operate, how to set yourself goals, achieve meaningful progress and adapt to core habits of making sure, you stay on the path.
There is no way around it: The greatest learning opportunity is when things don’t go according to plan. When you envisioned X and Y or Z happens, and you have very little idea about why that is.
When that happens – and it will happen – it is an open invitation to learn. It is an invitation to go back, investigate and walk through everything you have done in order to try and find the spot(s), where you missed something important.
It is by no means certain that you will be able to find it at the first time of asking. But if you adapt an experimental approach and try to adjust here and there in a controlled way, chances are that you will finally understand what happened, and what you could have done and should be doing forward to make it right. And voilá; you will actually have learned something.
The other day I met with a startup in need of some advice. They have been working on their offering for a couple of years, and they felt stuck in terms of getting it to market and choosing the right approach.
They showed me their product, and it prompted a conversation about who they have developed the product for, and what they actually, factually know about the customers, they are trying to get to buy into their offering. It was a classic example of solution looking for a problem.
We took a step back and talked about the value proposition based around the Value Proposition Canvas. And when it came to the problem solving real pains for real customers, it was painfully obvious that the biggest issue for them was that there is a disconnect between the customer pain points and how the product looks and welcomes you.
They left with new insights and ideas into how to progress from here. Sometimes it just pays to rewind the clock and look at whether there is a connection for real between needs, pains and gains and the actual product.
Some people might need a guide to sourcing disruptive ideas. For the rest of us, we all – I bet – are painfully aware of where we tend to have our most bright flashes or epiphany moments.
For us it is more a question about being able to capture them than to get to them in the first place. I for one am one of those people that tend to get ideas in the shower, and it is not always that practical, when you know you need to jot something down now, before you forget the train of thought, when you’re all covered by soap, and the water is running.
Where do you get your most inspired moments? And what do you do to safe them for eternity? And when you save them, what usually happens afterwards with them? Do you act on them? Why? Why not? And how do you make the distinction? I am curious to know.
Yesterday, the company I chose to deliver fiber to my home made their best effort to loose me as a customer. Due to unfortunate circumstances I narrowly missed a visit by a technician, and when I called them to figure out what went wrong, the customer support was rude and hung up on me.
Companies behaving that way may have a good or even great product. But they have a shitty customer experience. And in a day and age where basically everybody can do anything, the true differentiator between winning and losing as a business with the customer is precisely what happened to me: A shitty customer experience.
Whether you are in a corporate or getting your own startup off the ground you should aim to lead by experience; be the most open, accommodating, empathetic and what have you. Because even if I as a customer come to you with a problem, I will remember you cared – and I will our relationship an extra shot.
What do you do, when you are a big fan of Assumptions Mapping as brought forward to David J Bland of Precoil, but you are not into doing a lot of Post It’s on a wall? You of course build an Excel model for it.
I have been using Assumptions Mapping for a couple of years now, but I have always struggled to use it in fx a workshop setting, because the concept with the quadrant, identifying knowledge gaps etc is foreign to many people. My experience is that it often goes much better if you just have a conversation, ask questions and plot down the answers.
So, I build a model in Excel that does exactly that. It lets you ask all the questions, make notes and score each answer based on the degree you have hard data on it and its criticality to the overall project. Once scores, the model will build a scatter chart with the correct labels, and in an instant you will have a visualization, you can work from. Cool, huh?
(Illustration: Visualisering fra modellen)
The events of recent years have shown that with great technology comes great benefit and great risk. Even the best services and tools can be used in ways that have opposite consequences of what was intended. And the risk of the latter happening gets compounded when the genie is out of the bottle; it gets super hard to stop again. In most instances it is not even possible.
For that reason we need to design products, services and tools in a different way. Where we have long made security a key component of how we think about designing systems, we should also have what I would call the flipside as a key consideration: How could this be exploited to evil ends, and what do we build into the product or service that will help prevent that.
I think that it is both a needed thing to do and a potential gamechanger for many. Trust has eroded in a lot of the platforms and companies that have struggle with ‘doing no evil’, and tomorrows winners will be those that serve an entirely good purpose and – by design – prohibits evil exploitation.
Starting today, food-delivery company Deliveroo will no longer be delivering meals from restaurants in Germany. While in itself there is nothing spectacular about a business exiting a market, it is spectacular that the notice to the companies delivery people – riders, as they are called – was only FOUR days.
Variable low-wage pay, unclear working conditions and – as it turns out – non-existing notices of termination are some of the flip sides of what is being called the Gig Economy. And while – again – there is nothing wrong with a flexible work environment presenting new opportunities to people looking for something else than ‘a regular job’, we need to be aware of the fact that every coin always have two sides to it.
We are so accustomed to hearing all the stories about innovative new ways of doing things, sharing things etc, and how it is all the rage for the future. We need to remember that there may be some other truths behind the stories essentially driving the need for glossy narratives. And we need to have an open discussion about these things in order to avoid creating a future society with too much tension between those who have a lot and those who have very little. That tension NEVER ends in a good place.
Hat tip: @tveskov for the headline