Why I picked up this book
I know it’s not the best thing to do, but I’m definitely one of those people who judge a book by its cover. I was browsing shelves at the local library one day and the book cover caught my eye. The subtitle, How to Develop the Right Idea, at the Right Time, also caught my attention. It got me thinking about the entrepreneurs I work with and how they develop their ideas.
One of the first questions I ask on any call is “why did you build this product?” With just this one question, I’m able to glean so much information in such a short period of time. It opens me to the world of who I’m talking to (what their market is), shines light on the problem that they’ve uncovered, informs me why other competitor products don’t work and outlines why their solution matters.
The thing is, if an entrepreneur is unable to answer the question, it’s probably not a project that will take off. Quite frankly, people who are able to answer that question, and answer it passionately with their own examples, tend to be those who actually are able to find a tribe and move forward with their launch plan.
Back to the book – the subtitle got me thinking about crowdfunding entrepreneurs and how they come up with new product ideas. I wanted to read more of it to understand how these ideas spark and what else I can do to better help founders in their journey to launch the best products to the market.
Top 3 things I learned
1. We’re all capable of coming up with novel ideas
Throughout the book, I was reminded of the many conversations I have with people just starting out on their entrepreneurial journey.
When I first talked to Brian, he spoke passionately about his dog and giving him the exercise that he needs every single day. After watching a YouTube video about a cheetah in a zoo and how they get exercise, something clicked. Why isn’t there a tool like this to get dogs to exercise at home?
In my conversation with Jeremy, he spoke about the lack of safety for motorcycle riders. It’s something that he does every weekend and what he cares deeply about. That’s why he set out to create a smart motorcycle helmet that would remove all unnecessary distractions while riding. He’s gone on to raise $460k from more than 500 backers.
In Cleve’s crowdfunding campaign, he talks about the problem he had as a man who loves to cook: all the chef knives were too small and caused multiple problems. He decided that there must be something better and set off to find the solution himself. His knife raised over $54k from more than 400 backers.
From these examples, it isn’t genius that sets these inventors apart from the masses. It’s being deeply ingrained in whatever facet of life (the niche) that they’re creating for, noticing a problem (a need), saying that there can be something better and taking action to build something better.
2. There are four things that develop the ability to create
Not much separates “normal people” from inventors. It’s truly the purposeful way of thinking about problems and finding novel ways to approach it. It’s the synthesis of ideas across time, disciplines, purposeful practice, and immersion. The four tenents that drive creation are:
- Consumption: the ability to deeply engage with a subject matter to create models and attain a certain level of familiarity and comfort.
- Imitation: knowing how to imitate what has been done before, but with a twist, in order to merge the familiar with the novel. Everything new sits on the edge of familiar and novelty.
- Creative community: being surrounded by like-minded people who help and support in terms of feedback, encouragement and disagreement.
- Iterations: it is critical to prototype, test and iterate. No one ever creates something on the first try. Heck, even crowdfunding campaigns fail the first time around, only to come back even stronger.
Quote to ponder:
“When most of us experience something new, for the first few encounters our avoidance reflex (“Run away!”) overwhelms out desire to approach (“Check this out!”)… This means that an idea that is too novel has a much harder time appealing to a broad audience.”
3. Get feedback on what you’re building and iterate quickly
Getting feedback and iterating needs to be in the DNA of every product. Nothing ever gets produced in a vacuum. You need to understand how your audience receives the product and go out with the aim of making it better and better.
Quote to ponder:
“Creative iterations are critical to making great products of all types.”
You too can create a new product for the market. To do that, look at the world around you, deeply understand the problem and envision the ways in which you can solve them better than any other solution out there. The closer you are to the problem, the better.
How this book applies to your crowdfunding journey
The book culminates in a prose about how ideas succeed. Sure, it’s the aforementioned steps in the creative curve (see point 2), but the most important thing is the response and feedback you get from your audience.
Crowdfunding is made up of two things: the crowd and funding. Everyone can start off with a good idea, but what will separate the winners from the losers is creating a way to get your audience to experience the product and get feedback from them. It’s the central thesis of human-centered design and the way forward in making things that people want.
Long gone are the days of top-down product creation. Now you have all the tools you need in order to test if your product resonates with your audience, determine what changes you need to make (if any) to get people to love it even more, and launch it to them.
Last quote to ponder:
“The biggest secret to creating something your audience will love? Listen to them.”