Blog

Foundation or Optimization?

A rule of thumb for deciding how to allocate your resources as an entrepreneur.

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Where to Start

I try my best to simplify the different ways you can get started with entrepreneurship.

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Similar Obstacles

A friend once advised me to heed his friend’s advice before launching my startup. I ignored the suggestion because my idea was ‘innovative’. Here’s the lesson I learned.

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Walkman

Here's why you shouldn't run a focus group.

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What's in a Name?

Five years ago, I started a laundry business. I named it Mirror Lake. I’ve learned a lot since then. For starters, Mirror Lake sounds more like a Chinese restaurant than anything else. I’ve also learned a few other things about product naming that I wanted to share with you.

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The Anti Focus Group Movement

I’m strongly against focus groups. I sat uncomfortably in a room. The five attendees showed up casually, one after the other. And then we started the session – a focus group.

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A Gateway

Taking feature requests from customers is a bad idea. However, it’s an excellent way to start a conversation. Done right, asking your customers for ideas is an excellent gateway to truly understanding what they want.

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Why now?

Timing is one of the most critical elements for the success of any idea. Teams are usually confident answering who their product is for and what problem it solves. Rarely do they ever pay attention to answering why now?

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Premature Pitching

When I first had the idea for Tre, a side table for multitaskers, I was ecstatic. I believed that I had the next big thing. Naturally what I did was talk to people about it. One specific person’s response was important to me. That person was part of what I had identified as my target market. He was also an extremely honest friend. He would tell me straight up if my idea didn’t resonate with him.

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Death to Brainstorming

Brainstorming is one of the most popular ways to come up with ideas. If you’ve ever taken part in a brainstorming activity, you’d know that you’ll end up with a lot of stickies. Brainstorming does lead to a lot of ideas. Unfortunately, they rarely lead to good ideas.

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Flickering Paper

We’ve all seen at some point a strip of paper or tape glued to an air vent. And we all know why. Air vents are stuck to the ceiling, and we aren’t 10 foot humans. It is tough to get that feedback from the air vent that it’s working. And so the obvious workaround is to stick a piece of paper that would flicker when the air vent is on. This is a classic workaround. A “hack” that people do. It’s as if we’re adding a new feature to air vents: the visual indicator that tells us whether the system is on or off.

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Your Idea is Irrelevant

Here’s the harsh reality: people don’t care about your idea. They care about the outcome it helps them achieve.

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Beta Testing with Humans

Entrepreneurs are always eager to introduce a new product or an exciting new feature to their audience. Their entire audience. This is a common mistake for many reasons. It’s important to roll-out new features slowly and intentionally.

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Delivering on Your Promise

I had to send Tre back to development. Everything was done — presumably. The working prototype was ready. We shot high quality pictures for social media. The crowdfunding video was done. And then I scrapped everything. It was one of the toughest decisions I had to make.

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Shiny Object Syndrome

Have you heard of shiny object syndrome? It’s what’s known as the disease of distraction. We humans have the affliction of always looking for the next, best new thing (or feature). This disease keeps us from fully realizing the potential of our current ideas, and developing what we already have.

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Good Enough

Good enough gets a bad rap. Good enough doesn’t mean you’re doing the bare minimum. It means you’re doing the right amount.

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Six Blades and Sixteen Lenses

The consequences of an over-designed product not only show up when the product is ready. Far from it. An over-designed product will have consequences during the entire development process.

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Positioning the Alternative

Customers will give you five seconds to tell them why they should consider buying your product. What should you say in those five seconds? While there are many ways to convince them in that short of a time, one powerful way is to position your product as a better or different alternative. Here’s why and how to do it.

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Three Questions

We’d love for everything to go according to plan. For things to have a clear starting point. For things to finish when they’re supposed to. We’d love for reality to follow the same linear line we drew in our plans. Unfortunately, that rarely happens.

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The Evolution of Convenience

For quite some time now, we’ve been associating convenience with delivery and speed, and this has been prevalent in Kuwait. Every merchant or new business in Kuwait touts convenience as their value proposition – and that, more often than not, means delivery. What ends up happening is the business owner makes an app (or uses Instagram if they’re a home business), and that app becomes the interface between the customer and the business. Everything else that happens offline is through a delivery service. We’ve accepted that, at least in Kuwait, as the most convenient method of interaction with a business. But what if that were no longer true?

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Step Zero

A question that’s always on my mind is: how do great business ideas start? Where do they come from? If you were to follow a disciplined approach to launching a product or business, what would the starting point be?

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Eyes Wide Open

Finding good ideas is a simple task if you keep your eyes open for certain cues around you. Most innovative companies and products started with curious minds. They were facing problems of their own, or noticed how people were using different services and products in ways they weren’t designed for.

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Remarkable Belief

There came a time when running my first business, Mirror Lake, that I stopped trusting our own service. It impacted everything.

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When to Start Prototyping

Good ideas are rooted in proper design research. Good solutions are rooted in proper prototyping and experimentation. But how do you know that you’ve done enough research? When should you start prototyping?

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How to Create Pre-launch Buzz for Your Product

How do you create buzz around your product? We all want our products to be sold out on day one. For customers to be glued to their phones in anticipation of launch day. Without a proper pre-launch plan, you will launch to nobody. Trust me, I’ve learned that lesson firsthand, and it’s ugly. In this post, I discuss two ways to create prelaunch buzz, and how I plan on applying those approaches for Tre.

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What I've Been Reading Lately

Innovating and product development are ever-changing subjects. Underlying technologies that power our innovations and products are continuously evolving (most recently, blockchain). Cultural shifts, immigration, and politics (*shudders*) translate to new sets of problems, needs and desires that we hope our solutions will address. Keeping up with the latest tools, tactics and approaches that aid us in better approaching the design stages (and post-design stages) is important if we want to remain on pace with trends. We want to give our products the best shot they have in succeeding wherever they may be sold.

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Ready, Set, 70%

You should jump into starting your own business when you’re 70% ready. Here’s why and how to be 70% ready.

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Testing Table Tops

Value propositions are powerful statements. Before they become value propositions, however, they’re hypotheses. Here’s how to validate them through experiments.

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The Future of Work

I want to talk to you about the future/ present of work. I’m not a futurist, nor do I possess some super power that helps me transport in time. However, two things have happened in the past month or so that brought this idea of ‘work’ into the forefront of my thinking.

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Crash Bandicoot's Checkpoints

Innovating is messy. The process feels like you’re thrown in a video game with an open world. Sometimes you might be progressing in the right direction, and sometimes you might be going sideways. However, it’s rather smart to go through checkpoints. Here’s why.

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How to pick Apples

Here’s what happens when you jump straight into testing and prototyping ideas, and how you can avoid going through an endless loop of iteration.

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Where Product Features Come From

Here’s a high-level approach for deciding on your product’s features.

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Squashed

Customer is king, but what about your competition? Here’s why they shouldn’t be neglected, and the questions you need to answer to avoid getting squashed by deeper pockets.

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Poorer, Slower, Dumber

Can your product succeed by deliberately being inferior? Innovation isn’t about being better, smarter or faster. Here’s the proof.

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Mo' Money Mo' Problems

As an entrepreneur, managing resources is a balancing act. Here’s why timing is everything and how it can help you spend wisely.

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When to Combo

It is every bit as important to know when to use a creative technique as it is to know what in order to obtain the maximum output possible. Here’s when to combo.

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Combo: a $500MM Concoction

Here’s the creative technique used to create a $500MM concoction that changed the coffee industry forever.

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The Familiar New

People respond to newness in one of two ways. Here’s how to weave familiarity into your product to receive the desirable one.

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2018 Look-ahead

2017 was the year of positioning. Here’s what I envision for 2018.

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Constrained Doodling

Many techniques help with generating creative ideas. None do so and inherently solve your identified problem. Here’s what to do.

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Challenges and Pilots

Innovating is messy, but you need a framework to pilot a product. What gives?

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Tools, Tools, Tools

Like surgeons, entrepreneurs and innovators need tools. Unlike surgeons, entrepreneurs are misusing their tools. Here’s how, and what to do about it.

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Your Product Better Talk

How well a product communicates with a market is the difference between success and failure. Here’s how to do it.

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Push vs. Pull Type Projects

Innovation is a term associated with a solution. When you start out, you don’t have a solution. So you can’t start with that. Here are two more natural starting points.

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From Problems to Jobs

Problems are opportunity triggers. They are signs that an opportunity might exist. Here’s how you funnel triggers into a hypothesis ready for testing.

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Smoke Testing a Taobla

Here's how I'm running a smoke test to validate some assumptions.

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Problem Unpacking

Here's a step by step approach to uncovering problems worth solving.

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Invention vs. Innovation and Why It Matters

The difference between invention and innovation is more than just a quibble over terminology.

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The Netflix and Dinner Problem

I moved into a tiny apartment. Here's a problem I've been facing.

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On Innovation Formulas

Innovation gurus are competing on who delivers the more accurate innovation formula, blueprint and algorithm. Are they misleading us? Will we ever distill the practice of innovating into a formula?

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3 Things I've Learned From Entrepreneurship Books

Here are 3 things I've learned from reading more than fifty books on entrepreneurship.

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Why You Should Measure Flexibility

Wondering how innovative your organization is? Measuring the flexibility of your parts and people might give you an indication.

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A Shoulder Injury and Building Innovative Enterprises

What you can learn from a shoulder injury I suffered back in 2011 to help build innovative enterprises.

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What I Learned From My First Two Prototypes

Prototypes are used to test assumptions and learn something about your product, market, or business model - that is if they are designed right.

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Why You Should Scratch Your Own Itch

Here's a more effective way of innovating that starts way before ideating and prototyping.

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Overdesigning a Business

Features of a solution should be directly linked to aspects of the problem you're solving for. Anything more is waste.

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How Not to Name Your Product

The name of your product is a positioning opportunity. Learn how HotelTonight and Air Wick took advantage of it, and how you can too.

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What Crossfish Can Teach You About Validating Problems

The impact of innovation is correlated to the problem you're solving and not the solution. It's time to validate and test problems. Let Crossfish teach you why.

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Why You Shouldn't Innovate Like Google

Google is an iconic organization when it comes to innovation. Blindly emulating what it's doing isn't necessarily the best strategy though.

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Jab, Jab, Educate, Right Hook

What boxing can teach you about marketing your novel idea.

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How to Innovate Like Serial Entrepreneurs

What serial entrepreneurs do differently and what you can learn from them.

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How to Design Your Innovation Metrics

Find out why your operational metrics are hindering innovation and how you can start designing ones that promote the five key behaviors of innovators.

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The Best Business You Can Start

How carrying around a little notebook in your pocket will lead you to the best business ever.

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How to Prototype a High End Product

Here's how you can test and validate a high end product without having to invest in building it.

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How to Pick the Right Innovation Framework

Why Six Sigma as a guiding framework will never quench your thirst for innovation.

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Why You Still Failed After 17 Iterations

Don't iterate your way to failure. There's a better way.

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The Power of Insight on the Path to Innovation

Insight is the seed of innovation. Here's how powerful it can be.

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Why You’re Not Getting Buy-in for Your Innovative Initiative and What to Do About It

Here's why your innovative initiatives aren't getting any traction and what to do about it.

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Why Google Glass Failed While Snapchat's Spectacles Are Thriving

A look at the state of wearable technology by comparing Google Glass to Snapchat's Spectacles.

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The 3 Best Books I've Read in 2016

These are the three best books I've read in 2016.

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Is Your Crazy Idea Worth Prototyping?

Here's a quick to check to see if your idea is worth prototyping.

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The Laundry Habit Loop

Here's how to design a service based on existing habits.

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When a Potential Business Isn't Given a Proper Chance

Here's what happens when you use the right tool at the wrong time.

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How To Find Your Innovation Tilt Using Doblin's Ten Types

Here's how to use Doblin's Ten Types Framework to find your innovation tilt.

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Innovation's Litmus Test

Here's a quick way to test whether you're serious about innovation or not.

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The Difference Between Innovation and Creativity

Here's the difference between innovation and creativity.

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