Discovering Ideas And Validating Them
We’ve all had that eureka moment. The light bulb goes off in your head. And elusive thoughts of this glass shattering idea dance around your mind.
For a moment you know-or at least imagine you know-how Martin Luther King Jnr felt giving his ‘I Have A Dream…’ speech. In that micro-second window, you change the world as we know it.
Pause, grab your idea pad and free write what popped into your consciousness. You can’t rely on your memory most times with such things. Then fire up Google(or your search engine of choice) to see who else has or is working on something ‘similarish’.
Brace yourself. Most definitely you’ll find several players already ahead of the game. This shouldn’t kill your morale. If anything, it should get you more fired up on whatever it is you had in mind. Now you know there is someone out there crazy enough to dream of the future you envision!
Dig deeper into these aligned ideas, products, services, companies or people. Find out how they’ve gone about offering their solution or making a difference. Spot shortcomings in their model-areas they have not tackled.
Be careful not to add new features to an existing solution and then imagine you’ve created something new to offer users. A feature is not a product!
Whilst looking into your competition, bear in mind it isn’t wise to go up against some players. Especially in their home turf i.e markets they already have strong competitive advantage in.
All’s not gloom though if renowned brands are ahead of the game. Survey your target market. If no established brand is offering the product or service yet, use that to your advantage. Move fast once you validate the idea.
Once you settle on the angle you are approaching the idea from, the next step is validation. The key activity during validation is research. The research could be primary or secondary. Since your business model and plan will revolve around the core idea, ensure to ask the right questions during your research.
There are a million ways to gather data from potential clients or users. The age old methods being surveys(or interviews). The three common types of surveys are:
- Face-to-face interview.
- Telephone interview.
- Written questionnaire.
All these options vary based on cost per respondent, flexibility and types of questions you can ask. With face-to-face interviews being the most costly in terms of time and money. That’s unless your sample prospective respondents are colleagues in your immediate proximity.
Of course in the 21st century most people rely on Online surveys. They are cost effective and eliminate the long mail wait time. They are also generally super effective if your questions do not get sent straight to ‘junk mail’.
Since some places lack access to the internet, we combine online surveys with printed paper surveys or mailed surveys.
Two of my favorite tools when creating online surveys are Survey Monkey and Google Forms. Both are so customizable depending on what you’re going for. You send your questions to a multitude of people in different geographies. With the click of a button.
If your survey does not get to enough proper or targeted respondents, conclusions drawn from it won’t be conclusive. Not to mention you’ll draw biased and faulty information. So share it far and wide. Use your social networks and mailing list.
If you’re stuck in a rut or feel like those creative juices don’t flow anymore. Read Paul Graham’s essay from a while back about idea generation. He talks about how to get startup ideas. I read this article because of the opening line. He lays some solid points in there. It is from a software startup angle.
“The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It’s to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself…”
The jury isn’t out on how effective surveys actually are. Look back to the last time you had to fill an online survey. How attentive were you as you checked boxes, shifted scales and typed in details? That is for the times when you actually bothered to open the surveys. (Seriously: the next time you come across a short survey, spare a few minutes to help a brother or sister out…)
I love Google, the internet and all the information accessible as a result. The sad truth is they have made us lazy when it comes to research. Today, we over rely on search engines.
The information gathered online is definitely a gold mine. We’d be foolish not to use it. Yet even for situations we deem trivial, relying only on these secondary forms of research doesn’t cut it.
It leads to us drawing the same if not only slightly varied conclusions as our predecessors. It is human nature after all to not veer so of course. To think of all the possibilities we end up missing out on.
Cliché as it is, remember it is easier to build a business around demand than it it to build demand around a business.