We can all reflect on a time where we’ve devoted an unnecessary amount of time and energy into a certain project, eventually having to cut our losses and scrap the idea entirely. We’ve all had it happen, and it will likely happen again.
This can become a much more serious issue in a business context when half-baked ideas end up wasting resources and impacting the lives of many people. Failed business ideas don’t just have consequences for the creative founders, but it can also have a negative impact on naive, fortune-thirsty investors, business collaborators, loyal employees and their families, and many others.
It normally starts with someone having a pseudo-aHA! moment and suddenly, it’s all this person can think about. They become so attached to their idea that they’ll do whatever it takes to ensure its faithful execution. And all on the basis that that individual - and maybe a few of his friends - think that the idea is “cool”.
There are way too many products out there that, other than being cool, are not really solving any problems. Nor are they adding value, nor answering any questions. They only exist because they are cool, sorta.
It was May of 2010 when Microsoft announced the Microsoft Kin, a quasi-smartphone that targeted social networking. The project took about two years, and there are rumors that they may have invested close to US$1B in total. It got shut down less than two years after being released. Not surprising given that in 2010 most people already had a smartphone that integrated most aspects of their lives, including social networking.
Around the same time, Google announced the super cool (not) Google Buzz, which was a social networking, microblogging and messaging tool that allowed you to do essentially the same things that Twitter was already doing since 2006. The list goes on and on - Google Wave, Bitcoin, Amazon’s Fire Phone. Not to mention start-ups based on assumptions like people may want to customize their jeans or that there are not enough unique restaurants or retail stores.
The one thing in common to all of these product failures is that no one answered the basic question before they started - why? Even if the “why” has been identified, there should still be evidence that this product will solve a real problem or add value or convenience to people’s lives. Without this, odds are that this might be a “cool” idea, but not awesome.
Awesome ideas will change the way you do business. It will turn a part-time endeavor into a profitable solution - and with it bring the revenue and exposure that’s deserved for a job well done and for creating something truly innovative. When you shift from cool to awesome, the value is inherent and requires no explanation. Awesome ideas don’t need to be anything fancy. Sometimes simply using a Twitter or Instagram account effectively, or maintaining a current and interesting blog may be a profitable and/or game-changing development.
For example, take some of the awesome ideas in the service industry - such as taxi services like Uber, or organic grocery delivery services like Spud (so good), or even car sharing services like Pogo here in Edmonton, and many others that are:
- Addressing an actual issue
- Making lives easier by adding convenience and/or value
- Fairly priced, while still profitable or, at least, sustainable
There are many different ways to test your marketing assumptions, like researching and analyzing relevant data, interviewing potential users, doing trial runs, etc. Energy and resources should not be invested into development until you’ve validated your idea and tested your assumptions. This can be a relatively quick and cheap process, or a time consuming and onerous one.
At any rate, once you have validated and tested your ideas, odds are your energy and resources are geared towards something awesome, and not just at a dog that won’t hunt.