Most innovations fail. Some fail many times over before they succeed. Dyson famously created over 5,000 prototypes before getting one to work. But most of us have neither the time nor the money to do 5,000 iterations of an idea, just to get it out of the door.
So how can we short-cut Dyson’s route? How do we deliver quick-fire innovation? Here’s how:
A successful product innovation has two qualities: 1) it works; and 2) people will pay for it. The aim of the development process is to tick both of those boxes as quickly and efficiently as possible. But here’s what most people miss: it’s the second of those two boxes that’s by far the most important. There’s no point creating something that works brilliantly, if nobody wants to buy it. And once you’ve proven there are people who want to buy it, then you can spend the time to get it working brilliantly.
That’s why every single step at the start of your innovation process should have one single aim: to find out what people will, and won’t, buy. Full stop. And the fastest way to do that is to identify each of the assumptions that you’ve made, often without realising it. For instance:
- Who exactly will your customers be?
- How will they find out about your product?
- What will motivate them to give you their money?
Once you’re crystal clear on your assumptions, you can test them to understand exactly which ones are flawed, and which you can prove. So, you might assume that 10% of people downloading your free game will buy credits to boost their progress. You don’t need 100,000 users to test this assumption. In fact, you don’t even need to develop the game, just enough of it to test. This is called a “minimum viable product” or MVP.
Any commercial idea can be broken down into basic assumptions, and for almost every assumption, there’s an MVP you could build to test it, and to find out what works.
Bottom Line: Don’t waste time perfecting something nobody will ever buy. Instead, get something basic in front of real people in real situations, and watch their response. They will tell you what works, what doesn’t, and what’s missing.
Where to find out more: Check out Eric Reiss and Steve Blank, and some of the brilliant material they’ve put out on “Lean Innovation”.