The product began with the initial concept of building a bucket list app, this was intended to drive new experiences, by allowing users to record their bucket list, big ideas, visually monitoring their progress, sharing, ranking and budgeting in order to motivate and inspire, out of the ordinary experiences. Given the traditional product development model, and our experience with it, rather than focusing on a problem: the user doesn’t have a service that makes it easy to organize big new experiences (there are apps out there). We focus on the solution, the product, the features, design and functionality, of a product that we do not know if anyone really wants yet (they don’t). Lean looks at the minimum viable product, generating the greatest amount of progress, with the least amount of effort, and measures progress by lessons learnt.
NI technology have always driven innovation, the first to put up the pay wall, for example. We open source code to public repos, through Research and Development we prototype new products, and dog food beta product releases internally before public launch. In this respect our prototypes are our minimum viable products, we learn, from the products that get built, by those that built them, dog fooding and collecting feedback on what works, and what requires improvement. Lean says we are biased, of course we are, we built them. LSM have pushed us to begin MVP consumer testing, (not to be confused with the model, view, presenter design pattern), to actively validate our business case from feedback by the customers that will pay for it. Now the word lean is circulating around R & D, daily.
So, first we needed to validate a business case for the requirement. It is worth noting, that for the learning purposes of the exercise, cost, competition and market saturation were not factored in to our experiments, and due to the time scale, only a single hypothesis was tested at any one time, and only once. In a real environment this would be different, but the lean process framework would remain the same. The first stage was customer exploration.
The Lean Startup Machine uses a tool, a validation canvas, a visual representation of the lean product development process. As I mentioned briefly in the previous post, this forces focus on a specific set of requirements, identifying a problem for just one person. The theory prompts you to conduct a startup as an experiment. Define a target group, a sub set of customers to test your hypothesis, their problem, and a possible solution. In the ‘Hang with a Local’ example, our first assumed problem was that ‘People feel guilty about not accomplishing new experiences.’, the solution: a bucket list application. To test this, we defined a set of core assumptions, that if false, would completely invalidate our business model. Then we ran an experiment to test the riskiest of these. Our assumptions included, ‘People actually want to experience new things.’, a pretty safe majority assumption, the riskiest of our core being, that people actually felt real guilt about the number of new experiences they had achieved to date. We were trying to monetize an emotive and sentimental response, over lack of life experience, by providing a means to gain more.
We asked a series of indirect questions to our potential customers, designed to validate or invalidate our problem hypothesis in as fast a time as possible. A minimum success criteria was defined, we wanted 5/14 people to give us a definite indication that this was the case. This was exploration. This didn’t happen, we found that actually, people either made their own means of recording the things they wanted to do in life, pins in map, blogs, diaries etc, or didn’t feel guilty at all, but merely looked upon the obvious excuses, career and finances, as a justification to why they didn’t per sue new experiences.
So we had to pivot, but what we learnt, was that those that did chase new experiences, didn’t want to do it alone, and found it difficult to find the time to research, plan and organize, the new things that they wanted to do. Regardless of the accessibility and resources of the internet, with this being, to them, too broad a platform. The customer hypothesis remained the same, the solution, became a personal event organiser, someone that makes it happen for you.