Is your idea actually a good one?


If you’ve gotten this far in the Design Thinking series, then you’ve bought into the concept that being customer centric matters.  Great, and welcome to this side of the tracks.  It’s a humbling place to be, but it does inspire you to create things customers actually want to buy.

You’ve just finished reading  “There’s a proper way to brainstorm” and we’ve taken you through a structured way to find explore some new ideas.  Constantly diverging and converging.  Now we need to test those ideas to see if they are any good.  The goal of this phase is to prototype the idea, feature, concept as quickly as we can and get it in front of potential customers to gather feedback.

Here’s the difficult part of this process;  Almost every person/team that goes through this prototyping and testing phase has the same fear of putting something that is only a prototype, something that is a little ugly and unfinished, in front of customers.  We hear “what if they don’t like it?”  “We can’t put something like in a customer’s hand”. We need to change this mindset of testing and prototyping.  We aren’t testing a final product.  We are testing the concept.

There are three possible outcomes of this phase:

  1. The customer likes it and provides valuable feedback as to why they like it
  2. The customer doesn’t like it and provides valuable feedback as to why they don’t like it
  3. The customer doesn’t care, and provides ideas of what they would like

There is almost no downside to this.  You may not hear what you want to hear, but isn’t it better to hear it early, before you’ve invested more money and time into this?  The worst plan is to think you have a good idea, build it out to a full product/service, and then realize no one wants to pay for it.

This is also why focus groups and surveys aren’t enough.  We often see/hear when we do focus groups and surveys that this group will pay for our new product.  “Our survey said that this demographic would pay a 25% premium over existing products”.  But what customers say and what customers do are often very different.  By testing the concept and watching them use it, interact with it, participate in it, only then will we have a better idea of what they will do, instead of what they said in a survey or focus group.

So how do we prototype and test properly?  Here are the key steps to ensuring you are prototyping and testing for the outcome that moves you closer to a viable solution.

  1. Build a hypothesis first.
    1. Have an idea of what you expect to happen when you test the idea. Don’t try to validate it, but it will give you something to test
  2. Don’t try to test too many things at once
    1. If you try to test too many features, ideas or concepts, the results will be difficult to interpret and you won’t get great data to move forward
  3. Don’t influence the testing
    1. Here’s a great video on how to test a prototype properly. The key lesson is that we aren’t guiding the customer through the prototype, they are guiding us in a way that make sense.
  4. Take good notes
    1. You won’t remember everything that is said so during the testing, have independent people take notes for you to help you see things from an objective point of view. Those who want to see the outcome happen a certain way, may be biased in their not taking…manage that.
  5. Learn something
    1. Take some time and debrief from the interview. What did you learn?  How would you make it better?  What was validated?  What changed?

Early on in the process, you should do five to eight independent interviews with potential customer segments to gather feedback.  As you fine tune your offering, and your customer segment, you will begin to have a clearer picture of what you should build.

This is a cycle.  Testing is not the final step, it is the driver for the next cycle of the design thinking process.  This is an iterative process that will help you become more customer centric and more focused on building products/services that customers will love.


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