Continuing on from Part One of my Five Part Introduction series, this week I focus on how to plan and action your project like a start-up.
So you have an innovative idea for your organisation and it is consistent and advances their strategic direction. You’ve been given the green light to explore it for a short amount of time, on a small budget. Awesome!
But what now? At the beginning the task can seem daunting and suddenly instead of knowing exactly what you are doing as part of your regular role; you are venturing into the unknown where what will be the end result is not clear.
Don’t panic because you are not alone and luckily for you some very smart, practical, risk-taking, movers and shakers have been working on and refining the process of what works and what doesn’t work, and basically how to just get stuff done. Start-ups are the early phase of a business where the founders are trying to find a repeatable, scalable business model for an innovative product or service where there is a high degree of uncertainty. Although you are already part of an existing organisation, the same process start-ups use can apply for forwarding innovative ideas.
There is a clear process to follow – but get ready to get out of your comfort zone to action it! If you want to act like a start-up and move things forward at warp speed on a lean budget it is not business as usual. You’ll have to talk to actual customers/users (and potential partners, suppliers, distributors and so on, basically anyone you can think of who will be important to your idea working) before you have produced anything. This communication process lays the initial foundation.
The cult 1989 film Field of Dreams quips: “If you build it they will come”. But don’t assume because you think it is a great idea everyone else will agree and all you have to do is present it and watch the money roll in. Test first, then test again, and then build and continue to do so.
Using a tool like the Business Model Canvas can be very helpful in explaining this process step by step and managing your assumptions about;
1. What problem you are solving for users
2. Who those users are
3. How you will reach them
4. How will you keep them
5. What resources you will need
6. What activities you need to do
7. Who you will need to partner with
8. How you will get revenue
9. What will it all cost
In the beginning they are just that – assumptions. You have to test them out before going into full scale production of a finished product or putting a service out there. Creating a minimum viable product at this stage can be invaluable. It may just be some graphics of what the finished product, app, device, tool etc will look like. You may develop something simple which people can actually use, touch, experience that will give the feel of the end product. Consider accessing a 3D printer or using one of the many free app mock-up programs but think prototype not a slick finished product.
When creating your prototype ask yourself: what is the absolute minimum you can do (factoring in turnaround time and resources) to give users the idea so you can start getting feedback on it? Sometimes it is better to start small and simple and add the bells and whistles on as cried out for by customers.
As you go through this process your idea will keep evolving and changing, and this is the whole point of this process. As you build your “field” based on customers needs, people will be drawn to your product and invest themselves in helping you cultivate your innovation; this is the beauty of intraprenuership.