You have a killer business idea. You're excited to bring it to the world. But how do you make it happen? How does the seed of an idea actually help you know how to build a successful business? You don't need to race to raise capital or build out an overly sophisticated product to get going. In fact, this is an expensive and unnecessary approach, especially when an idea is in its infancy. Instead of racing towards developing a final product, you should take time to test the bones of your idea and refine the concept. Here are the key tricks and tips an innovation consultant uses to make sure the idea is ready for development.
1. Make Sure You Are Actually Solving A Problem
First things first, you must be solving a problem that actually matters to people. One big reason the Segway failed to be "As big as the PC", as Steve Jobs had predicted, was that it failed to solve a real need. Nobody was looking for a mode of transportation that went slightly faster than walking, without bag storage, or clarity on whether it was road or pavement worthy; except mall cops. Take time to distil exactly what it is that your idea is solving, and then figure out if it's something people care enough about to turn to your business. Often, the best business ideas are born out of personal frustration. For example, Richard Branson, decided to create Virgin after being fed up as an airline passenger. In true Branson fashion, he said, "Screw it, I can do it better than you." Use your personal insight as a starting point, and then corroborate from other people that you are actually solving a real need.
Try: Try creating an online survey, mining your social networks for data, hosting man-on-the-street interviews, exploring the 20/20/20 test, soaking up data and trend reports related to your category and scouring intel on competitors that both worked and failed.
2. Tell Everyone
There's a myth going around that if you have a blockbuster idea, you have to keep it all to yourself and not tell a soul. After all, they might steal your brilliance. However, having an idea and bringing an idea to life are two wildly different things. Ideation is easy, implementation is not.It requires bucket loads of tenacity, grit, patience, money, time and a little bit of luck. When you talk to people about you idea, you get valuable feedback, input and builds on the concept. No doubt someone will open your eyes to an angle you hadn't yet considered, or a feature that you wouldn't have deemed important or a marketing angle you may have overlooked entirely. These inputs are enormously helpful and best of all, they're free.
Try: Finding a mentor, pitching at a demo day, telling your friends, family and anyone who will listen.
3. List Your Assumptions
Before you commit to building a prototype or invest heavily in an MVP, start by listing all the assumptions that need to be true in order for your business to work. Create a long list, that walks through your idea from start to finish - and make sure to include even the most basic of assumptions. For example, assumptions for a restaurant booking service might include things like: people find booking restaurants hard, people would pay for someone to solve this problem, restaurants would be open to outsourcing bookings, people want to be rewarded for their participation. Once you have your assumption stack, start to think about how you might prioritize them in order importance; from critical to trivial.
Try: Build an assumption stack that spells out all the elements that need to be in place for you to be successful. Next prioritize the assumptions: which ones MUST hold true in order to be successful
4. Test Your Assumptions
Take your list of prioritized assumptions and find small ways to test them. This could include building an MVP or prototype that will get to the heart of your assumption stack. You can be smart about this too. For example, Tough Mudder CEO Will Dean grew Tough Mudder into a $100 Million business, from just $7,000 in savings. At the heart of his business lay an assumption that people would want to endure arduous conditions while exercising. To test his assumption, he pre-sold tickets to races and used the money raised to build the torturous obstacle course.
Try: Finding smart ways to test your assumption. Avoid building out a whole product if you can.