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the intersection of business, design, and technology

What do I build?

Last night, I attended a class at General Assembly on Validated Learning to help you determine if a new product idea is worth pursuing. As an engineer, I learned about similar processes working in an agile environment where we would regularly implement and enhance features through iterative sprint cycles. It feels like the same principles really.

To validate your product idea, you identify your assumptions. Starting with your riskiest assumptions first, you determine the metrics that mean your assumption is correct.

Test your assumption. If you are successful you move on to the next one. If you are unsuccessful, you revisit by either re-evaluating the metrics, the implementation of your test or the assumption itself. Rinse and repeat. This is called the Build, Measure and Learn Loop.

The idea is to catch missteps early. If an assumption is wrong, you want to find out early so that you can course correct before you’ve invested too much time, money and effort.

So what sorts of questions do I ask to help me understand my assumptions and test them out?

  1. What is the problem you are trying to solve?
  2. Is this problem painful enough for users that they would be willing to pay for your solution?
  3. Does your solution actually do what you claim?

So how do you validate if your solution is actually a problem that needs solving? You need to talk to people to understand their existing process. Have them describe their work flow for you and ask about where the pain points lie. Folks might not know what they need but they do know what they don’t like.

Once it looks like you’ve got a solution, you want to find people or companies who might be willing to pay you to take their pain away. One low cost way folks vet out this assumption is to create a google form or a landing page to collect email addresses and generate a customer list to gauge interest. Your landing page is also a great opportunity to start collecting data about your customers like capturing the keywords folks are using to find your website.

Awesome, now you’ve got some interest but is this really a business? Test things out as simply as possible with your early adopters and confirm if your users are willing to use your service again. If customers are coming back, then you’ve got something exciting.

To me, this sounds really similar to  the way engineers iterate towards successful features and how we’ve been working at product here at MYH.  But as I was digging around for more substance, I came across a post from Amy Hoy who I’ve been following for many years.  I really love the way Amy has always been able to communicate her business advice and experiences in a focused and digestible way.  I think it’s her designer background that helps make her ideas really pop.  Checkout for more.

1 Comment

  1. Mihai Pintilie

    When I start building something, a website or a campaign, I always put the objective in the center of all activities. It’s not always related to a problem. Sometimes the objective is building a business from zero to hero. Sometimes desperate people try to revive their businesses, and lives, by putting all their money and hope on a last ultimate solution. That makes reaching the objective crucial for both you and your partner.

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