Gifted entrepreneurs can read minds to deliver exactly what their customers want – no more and no less.
Or so it seems…..
Unfortunately, however, this rarely happens. Let’s review the typical entrepreneur path:
You come up with a great idea based upon a struggle that you or someone you know is experiencing. You are excited. You begin crafting your solution. You then show this initial product to a potential set of customers and ask them if they like it and if they will pay for it. They think it is great – just what they need – and would definitely pay for it. When you come back later to ask them to buy your solution, they seem to have changed their minds. What happened?
This standard approach creates a problem that has been called The Innovator’s Bias. This is when an entrepreneur falls in love with her product and strongly believes that if she can just get this wonderful solution into the market, all the other problems will take care of themselves.
The Innovator’s Bias affects the way you see the world, the way you talk to people about your solution and their needs. It is one of the main reasons why your startup or your latest product offering fails.
Conversely, the user suffers from the Endowment Effect – he over values his current “solution”. He becomes emotionally attached and will only switch when the alternative is significantly better.
These biases contribute significantly to The 9X Effect described below:
Here is how you can learn what these so-called “gifted” entrepreneurs have figured out – usually by trial and error, not some innate ability. It is actually a skill that they have learned over time with practice and the right mindset.
One approach to overcoming the 9X Effect is simple but not easy. If you focus on the four steps below, you are well ahead of your peers giving yourself a much better chance of discovering a problem worth solving.
- Identify the problem – This part is the hardest. The advice, “talk to your customer”, is ubiquitous, however, the optimal way to do this is not. We have to learn how to interview a customer without bias and/or watch current behaviors to identify the underlying needs that they are unable to express when asked, “Please describe your problem”. They suck at this. Don’t believe them. Their answers are influenced greatly by existing solutions and are usually unable to tell us more than surface problems. We need to get to the root problem. There are several approaches to help you get there- Lean Customer Development, Jobs to be Done, and Design Thinking.
- Identify the Customer Segment(s) that has the problem. Pick a group of folks you believe already have this problem.
- Identify the Early Adopters – Narrow down the Customer Segment that likely struggles with the problem most acutely and are solving it (or trying to) on their own today – usually by brute force or cobbling other things together.
- Identify alternatives – These may be direct or indirect competitors or some home-grown solution. Please note that if you truly uncover the problem (aka – the job to be done), you will very likely find out that your original competitive list is valid but not sufficient. One book you can read is When Coffee and Kale Compete by Alan Klement for deeper knowledge on this topic. Please visit my Resources page for more book suggestions.
This is just scratching the surface but it you start here you will be far ahead of your peers. You will begin to create a better user of your product. If you put yourself in the shoes of your users, your newfound perspective will transform your design and innovation processes. To learn more about this, Ash Maurya, the author of Running Lean and Scaling Lean, has a great blog and video series.
Feel free to contact me for a deeper dive as I am a practitioner of Lean Customer Development and Design Thinking and am well-versed in Jobs to be Done.
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