Idea Validation Frameworks You Can Trust
6th October 2021
Mateusz Krawczyński is a Product Management Practice Lead at Netguru. Mateusz has a background in computer science and entrepreneurship. He is currently leading the product management and product marketing teams on their mission to help clients and Netguru itself adapt to a true product mindset. Mateusz is obsessed about a customer-centric and value-driven approach to building software products
So you’ve developed the seed of a new product or business idea, and are convinced that it’s the next big thing. However, chances are that your idea may require some improvements. In fact, depending on the problem you need to solve or the service area you wish to address, it may not even be the “right” idea at all.
A better approach is to acknowledge that every product has potential flaws, and that every concept needs to be open to change or evolution. Testing or validating your ideas is the correct path to take if you want to identify potential risks early on.
The vehicle you can use to test and verify your concept is idea validation. This kind of approach enables you to identify and mitigate the risks associated with your idea. It also gives you the flexibility you’ll need to pivot if necessary and find new ideas, change your value proposition, or identify a new Unique Selling Point (USP).
In this article, we look at the most reliable idea validation frameworks that you can use to verify your business idea.
The Customer Development framework was created by Steve Blank. Its methodology is all about gathering validated evidence to test your hypotheses, gaining a deep understanding of the problems facing your target customers, and validating the solutions that you come up with. It consists of four steps — customer discovery, customer validation, customer creation, and company building. Each of the steps is iterative.
Lean Startup was greatly inspired by Customer Discovery. Validated learning is the central theme of this framework, which puts its emphasis on getting your priorities right at the start. The priority is to learn instead of only executing. As a result, startups are able to create a scalable business model using this iterative process. The idea is to focus on identifying the right thing to build — something that customers will want, and be willing to pay for. This approach enables you to adapt your plans incrementally, as time and circumstances demand. And in this way, you won’t have to spend months waiting for a product beta launch to know to change your company’s approach.
This idea validation framework employs a wide range of methods during the “test” phase of the validation process. Many of these procedures have their origin in software and systems development. They draw from the methodologies typically used during Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and User-Centred Design (UCD) tests.
Testing is most commonly performed at the same time as Prototyping. However, tests may be conducted throughout the progress of a Design Thinking project. The end goal at any stage of testing is to design a solution that satisfies the tests of desirability, feasibility, and viability:
- Desirability — Do people want your product or service?
- Feasibility — Can it be built?
- Viability — Can we make a business out of it? Will it be sustainable and scalable?
Google’s Design Sprints
Google’s Design Sprint methodology makes use of principles found in Design Thinking and Lean Startup. It is a five-day process aimed at answering critical business questions. These issues are addressed through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. The sprint gives teams a shortcut to learning, without them having to build or launch a Minimal Viable Product.
The approach that works for us at Netguru consists of the following steps:
Create an initial mental image of the product or concept, for instance using a Design Thinking workshop or common brainstorming techniques.
Create the initial lean canvas
The business model or lean canvas is a sketch of the business that can fit on one page. This doesn’t need to be perfect at the first attempt. The idea is to map critical assumptions about your business. This will enable you to prioritize your validations.
Key questions you might ask at this point could include:
- Are there people who have a real pain or need?
- Who are they?
- What kind of value do they seek?
After you have created your first version of the canvas, it’s important to evaluate the risk and identify the elements that still need to be validated. The high-risk assumptions which you should identify, test, and take care of first are the ones that can render your whole idea useless if they are invalidated.
Take the riskiest assumption and convert it into a hypothesis — why is it important?
You’ll want to follow the approach that best helps you to confirm or reject your assumptions in an organized manner, based on your experiments and data. For example, The Hypothesis Checklist takes a systematic approach to examine the change that you are making, the aspect that will change, the success or fail metric, and for how long you are going to run the test.
Good experiments should be focused on one variable at a time, so that the product team can clearly understand what’s affecting the results.
Throughout these processes, the mindset that will pay dividends for you is the one that’s continually learning and responsive to discovery. This kind of thinking enables you to learn what’s going right and what’s going wrong — and to do something about the results of what you’ve learned.