If your big project is successful, it will be because the assumptions it rested on were true. But when you start your project, you don’t know what is and is not true. Think of 4 factors in descending certainty: 1) Facts (we know what we know.) 2) Assumptions (we know what we think.) 3) Questions (we know what we don’t know.) 4) Surprises (we don’t know what we don’t know.) To “de-risk” your project, lay these out at the beginning of your project… and then drive each from uncertainty to certainty.
To see how this is done, view the video at Project De-risking with Minesweeper
Imagine a fellow on a date that talks about himself for an hour. His only questions are, “What’s your income? What’s your educational level?” Then he closes with, “Will you marry me?” Does this sound like an old-fashioned “qualify-and-then-close” sales call? As in a good date, you should be genuinely interested by your customer and their needs.
Learn more about B2B innovation at theaiminstitute.com
Many suppliers ask “low-lumen” questions that neither illuminate nor engage customers. They may be biased, close-ended or too complex. Beware requesting sensitive information, or asking, “What would you pay for this?” When you ask for problems, don’t try to “help” with examples. Instead, let the customer choose the next topic to discuss.
Read more in article, Lean Startup: A Great Approach Requiring “B2B Pre-Work” (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth.) Lean Startup wisely recommends testing assumptions and learning from customers at the first opportunity. For most B2B suppliers, this “first opportunity” to learn comes before a prototype is created – through early voice-of-customer interviews that mine the insight and foresight of highly-knowledgeable customers.
Think of a great radio interview. Did the host say, “I have 10 questions about your book”? Or did he listen carefully, asking wonderful questions? Did these questions cause the guest to think deeply? Did the guest enjoy the stimulating exchange, even thanking the host? This is how you learn what competitors miss.
Read this article, Should You Develop New Products like Steve Jobs? (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth). Have you ever heard someone say, “But Steve Jobs didn’t ask customers what they wanted.” Understand the flaws in this thinking for B2B suppliers.
Initially, you are aware of the first three, but completely unaware of the fourth—surprises. When you begin your project, list the first three, and try to convert A’s and Q’s into F’s. Then uncover the surprises through customer interviews, tours and observation. Seek to understand the first three, and discover the last one.
More in white paper, Innovating in Unfamiliar Markets (pages 12-13).