Is Your Crazy Idea Worth Prototyping?

Many enjoy the process of innovation for its inherent promotion of crazy ideas. This phase of ideation comes after you have done extensive research to uncover problems that your customers have. And while execution is more important, there is no denying that there is a part of designing an innovative product or service where you throw around (hopefully not literally) your wildest of ideas.

There are many methods to control and manage this chaotic phase. However, the true challenge arises in picking the ideas worth prototyping. How do you overcome that challenge? How do you assess whether or not your crazy idea might actually be good? The following is a simple two-step checklist that will help guide you.

Check #1 – Does it solve the problem?

You would think that this is quite obvious, but many miss it. In the early stages of research, you have zoomed in on a problem statement. Accordingly, you are now looking for solutions to this problem. However, many teams get derailed by a wonderful-sounding idea generated in the “crazy idea” stage. And while that idea could very well be a promising one, you must challenge yourself to stick to your course of direction. Don’t discard that idea. You could come back at a later time and explore its potential. If the crazy idea, no matter how appealing it may sound, doesn’t solve for the identified problem, it must be put to the side. It might be tough to do that, but at this stage, we need not emotionally attach ourselves to a sexy looking idea. Furthermore, the answer to ‘does it solve for the problem?’ is a binary yes or no answer. There are no ‘maybes’ here.

Check #2 – Feasibility, desirability, viability

Let’s start at the end. The very end. The whole purpose of the entire process you’re undergoing, including the phase of ideation and prototyping, is to design an offering people want. The success of an offering relies on three main pillars: feasibility, desirability and viability. So the challenge here is to detect, as early as possible, which of your ideas will lead to offerings that are feasible, desirable and viable.

Feasibility

Feasibility answers the question: can it be built?

According to The Business Model Canvas, feasibility covers key partners, key activities and key resources. Before prototyping, you need to check for clear red flags regarding feasibility. Don’t get into much detail. This should be a simple answer and doesn’t require the input of end customers to validate. Is it technologically possible to design or build your idea as an offering? If your product requires drones to drop off your product, that happens to weigh 20tons, then you might have to hold on to that idea for a bit.

Viability

Viability answers the question: is it worth building?

According to The Business Model Canvas, this covers the cost structure and the revenue streams. Again, before prototyping, check for clear red flags for ideas that are not viable. You don’t need to get into intricacies here. Some ideas will scream non-viable, and this guide assumes that your brain is properly functioning and can make a logical decision. If you’re not sure whether or not a certain idea is viable, don’t discard it. You are only looking for starkly obvious red flags.

Desirability

Desirability answers the question: should it be built? To test for desirability, we need to make a slight tweak to the way we think about ideas.

First, reframe ideas as hypotheses

At this stage, it is important to know that your ideas are unproven. To put yourself in the right mindset, you need to start thinking of each idea as a hypothesis. You then build a prototype to prove or disprove that hypothesis. For example, let’s say one of your ideas is a see-through wallet. What you are assuming is that your target customer would carry a see-through wallet.

See-through Wallet –> We think people would carry see-through wallets

This simple shift allows you to think in terms of tests and experiments. The next step would be to build a prototype to test whether or not people would carry see-through wallets.

Desirability is the trickiest of pillars because you don’t have the answers. Your customers do. According to CB Insights, the number one cause of startup failure (at 42%) is “no market need” – which basically means that customers don’t desire the offering. We can see, then, the importance of testing for desirability.

Why can’t I just ask my customers if they desire my solution by explaining it to them?

No. No, no, no. BIG NO! It has continuously been proven that there is a huge gap between what people say they would do, and what they actually do. Furthermore, many people have trouble visualizing your offering. It might be clear in your mind, but not theirs. You must test for desirability through prototypes.

Ok. So I reframed my ideas as hypotheses. Which one should I test for first?

You need to pick out your biggest of assumptions and prototype for those first to prove desirability. If you prove your biggest hypothesis as being valid, you move on to your second biggest assumption and test for that. You need to always keep viability in mind when testing for desirability. For example, see-through wallets might be desirable for your target customer at a maximum of $200, but it does not make financial sense to you as a business to charge anything less than $450. In this case, the intersection of desirability and viability doesn’t make sense, and you have to test for a different hypothesis.

After validating your hypotheses to prove desirability, you have to go back and evolve your idea further with regards to viability and feasibility. You have already checked for clear red flags regarding those two pillars, but now it’s time to get into more detail. Here is where you should whip out your Business Model Canvas and fully fledge out your solution.

Off to you!

How do you pick out your good ideas from the plain bad ones? How do you decide which ideas are worth prototyping? Do you follow a certain method to categorize, cluster or prioritize your ideas?

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