We have many great ideas, but often struggle with bringing those to life. There is no secret sauce or prescription of how to do it right, nevertheless there are some things I’ve done to help that seem to help the process.
4 Key Takeaways:
- For ideas to take off there are some useful steps to take.
- Check that your idea is making it better (easier, faster or cheaper) for people to do something they need or want to do.
- You don’t need to be an expert already. There are lots of data points easily available you can use and analyse.
- Create prototypes and minimum viable products to get meaningful feedback from real customers.
- Surround yourself with great people – ambitious problem-solvers.
About Brendan Hughes:
Brendan, originally from Meath, lives in Dublin with three children. He has worked in a number of large Irish organisations such as VHI, FBD, BoyleSports and most recently INM. He has also lived in Gibraltar where he worked with a global affiliate marketing company. In his roles he focuses on creating consumer-focused digital product and marketing propositions.
Contacting Brendan Hughes:
By Brendan Hughes
I have a gazillion ideas. About how I can change the way the world works, about making things easier or better for people. Over my career working in companies, I’ve managed to bring some of my ideas to life. I wouldn’t say that there is a secret sauce or a prescription of how to do it right, nevertheless there are some things I’ve done to help that seem to help the process; to get buy-in from my peers and to ensure that we create something that does actually make sense to other people.
We know that many of the most successful start-ups fixed a problem that was felt by enough people in order to make their idea grow and be a success. Most times the ideas we can bring to life are not as momentous as an Uber or an AirBnB. While I’ve had some really big ideas, the ideas I’ve managed to actualise are generally solving much smaller problems. Regardless, nothing you do will be a success unless you are somehow providing an easier or better (easier, faster, cheaper) way for people to do something they need or want to do.
I haven’t always been a subject matter expert in the industries I’ve worked in, so to ensure that I’m actually solving real problems, I gather and analyse data from customers to validate my assumptions. In a digital world there are masses of easily accessible data sources – web analytics (which tells me where people are getting stuck), customer research (which allows me to question users), customer support conversations (which record the pain points of frustrated customers) and social media (which is a preferred place for people to go to rant). Talk to customers directly if you can. Listen to these sources with cool objectivity to identify the pain points.
Customer research can be really annoying. Very often your potential customers will tell you what you want to hear. Me: “Do you think it would be a good idea if I fixed this problem in such an such a way?” Potential Customer: “Yes, sure Brendan. That sounds like a great idea.” Very few people have ever told me my idea was shit. We like to be nice to each other, which is great, but leads to false outcomes.
So, I’ve learned to paint pictures and create prototypes to draw out meaningful feedback. The best prototypes are those customers can interact with. Find some real people, that are close matches to your main customer personas, and sit with them watching them interact with your prototype. See their reactions first hand to gauge how close you are to solving their problem in a better way. Watch where they get stuck. And watch for the emotional queues that tell you are on to something.
The problem with the research and design phase of ideation is that it will never be conclusive enough. Until you have your idea in the market in front of people in such a way that they can actually pay, subscribe, buy or “commit” – you still know very little. But creating a whole product and marketing experience can be expensive and high-risk.
What we’re talking about is focusing on creating an MVP – a minimum viable product that meets the core need you are setting out to address. It doesn’t need to fix all aspects of the problem, just the part that is important enough for people to say “Yes, I’ll pay for that”.
Sometimes even getting there is too hard. So you can create a proxy. Something else that you can use to assess the appetite of customers. You learn shed loads when you have your product in the real world. You can begin to assess the reaction of customers. You can play with pricing, packaging and marketing. Your assumptions get turned on their head. Your original idea might turn out to be a dud, but you’ll have discovered something else that makes much more sense.
In all of this, the most important thing to do is surround yourself with great people. Not just people who will agree with your vision of the future, but people who are comfortable with the journey, who are willing to take risks and who are eager to try new things.
In big companies, many people live in a state of fear. Worrying about all kinds of things that don’t help to get things done for the customer. Keep those people away from your ideas. Bring in people who are going to challenge the idea, but who are also going to positively act to make it work. 95% of people are problem-finders, 5% are problem-solvers (I made up those numbers). Hang out with the ambitious problem-solvers.