How Do I Know if My Idea is Good?

Another week at the Building a Business course being run at Said Business School, with another great speaker.  Dave Fletcher is the founder of White October, a digital media agency based here in Oxford.  He is also a founder of Digital Oxford, an organisation that supports and promotes digital technology development in the area.  Dave's topic was "How Do I know if My Idea is Good?", which I was particularly intrigued with.  I am sure most of us have had what we think are great ideas, which we have enthusiastically shared with friends or family, which they inevitably either shot down or said, "Hmm that sounds nice".  So how do you know if you have a good idea?  Dave's suggestion: Assume nothing, question everything!  

First off, what problem does your idea solve? Do your customers even exist?  Is the problem that you want to solve, actually a problem for others?  Don't just assume that your great idea will be a great idea. . . you have to ask people.  Get out on the street and ask people whether your pain is shared.  Talking to people will open your mind and show you whether you are on to something or not, and may even take your idea in a different direction that you originally thought.

“What are the riskiest assumptions that I am making about this business and what is the quickest and cheapest way of validating them?”  By asking yourself this question about your value proposition (ie how your idea will solve a problem and add value), you can begin to test your idea and see whether it is good.

So how do you find all your assumptions? Business model canvas! (Described in detail by Maria Nikolou in Lecture 3).  This will give you a clear framework for determining whether you should continue on.

But talking to people isn’t the only way to validate your idea: fake products, website landing pages, pre-order sales can also prove you are on the right track.  I particularly liked the website landing page idea: ask people to sign-up for updates as to when a product will be available, to see whether there is demand.  If someone is interested enough to give you their email address, they are potentially interested enough to be a customer.

Dave also went into some detail about MVP’s, or minimum viable products, which, like the website landing page, can give your potential customers a taste of what your idea or product will do.  It does not need to be an all singing, all dancing version, but just enough to give interested parties an idea of what t will do.  He suggested that you shouldn’t build you idea/product, and ask yourself first: “ How do I not build this?”  Test without building, so you do not waste your time, energy and money on building something that is not viable.

Take home message?  Test everything, question everything, assume nothing.  Open your mind, take it one step at a time, and accept that your end goal is often different than when you started.  Learn as you go and adapt!

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