You have a brilliant idea for a new product or service. You have the know-how in this market that counts. You excel at executing. Past successes are proof that your new idea is in good hands. What could go wrong?
Most successful, established companies (brimming with elite talent) routinely launch and then retire failed ventures. Google Glass, anyone? The McLobster?? Alberto Savoia, former Google Innovation Agitator and author of ‘The Right It’ calls this The Law of Market Failure:
“Most new products will fail in the market, even if competently executed.”
Execution matters, but ideas that aren’t in sync with what the market wants will fail. It happens when prospective customers don’t care about your product or service enough to purchase. So it’s worth reminding ourselves about a basic business truth:
“The single necessary and sufficient condition for a business is a paying customer” — Bill Aulet, Managing Director of Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship.
Is The Law of Market Failure a fundamental truth we have to live with? Savoia reminds us that some things are beyond our control, but also suggests you can sway the odds in your favour. His advice is to start with the most important question for any new venture — do customers care?
You test it. Validating ideas is fundamental to entrepreneurial frameworks such as Lean Startup or Disciplined Entrepreneurship. These approaches build upon broader trends over the last few decades towards human-centred design and design thinking, which champion the importance of testing. At GrowthOps, our experience tells us that robust testing and validation invariably leads to a better, more aligned customer experience. Globally successful companies embrace research and test-driven methods that focus on understanding what customers want, need, and how they behave. They validate their ideas with real people in the real world.
Humans are riddled with bias. We easily convince ourselves that our idea is ‘the one’. This delusion is compounded by our friends, family, and peers as they nod their heads politely in agreement.
Traditional market research is similarly flawed as many of its methods (e.g. focus groups) solicit opinions rather than facts. Participants are aware of the ‘act’ of research itself, leading to demand characteristics or the Hawthorne effect. And then there’s confirmation bias plus a whole category of problems originating from the researcher and their methods.
Savoia calls this subjective world of bias, opinions and conjecture ‘Thoughtland’, and warns us to be wise to its ways. Heartache soon follows when that idea everyone seemed to love, and the market research suggests is ready to proceed, turns into a painful failure.
How does Savoia suggest we overcome these bias pitfalls? Easy. We fake it.
Shorthand for ‘Pretend Prototyping’, a pretotype is designed to introduce a higher degree of objectivity when testing if an idea is worth building at all.
Pretotyping asks us to: 1. Identify the Key Assumption — Are people interested at all? Will they use it as expected? Will they continue to use it? 2. Choose a Pretotyping method — Choose quick and cheap methods, and there are several (we’ll look at an example next). 3. Define your Market Engagement Hypothesis — X% (how many) OF Y (market) WILL Z (describe how you expect them to engage)? 4. Test your Pretotype — Get into the real world and see how customers engage with it. 5. Evaluate your results — Learn from the test. If the results aren’t great you may need to refine your idea, pivot, or scrap it altogether.
At GrowthOps we have put pretotyping into practice. Let’s look at an example.
A former Australian cricketer came to us with an idea — Cricket Hub. His vision? Deliver coaching of international standard via mobile app, with comprehensive skills videos amongst a range of other features.
The idea sounded like it had legs (padded of course! Ugh, sorry…). But what pricing model should we use? How many developers do we need? Before we knew it we were in ‘Thoughtland’. We needed an ice-cold can of reality called Pretotyping.
We applied Savoia’s pretotyping approach to Cricket Hub:
What’s next for the team? It’s time to either refine our Market Engagement Hypothesis or make changes to the idea itself. And how do we test those changes? With pretotyping of course! There’s more to unpack within Savoia’s book The Right It, but you can see how compelling the method is. Pretotyping is a powerful tool for innovators.
Pretotyping is just one of many techniques we employ to understand what customers value, and to inform better business decision making. We’re here to help you ideate, experiment and learn because it’s critical to Make sure you are building The Right It before you build it right.
Attracting and retaining new customers / Generating more revenue and profit / Driving behaviour change
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