Lessons learned in building a new product

Innovation is great, improving the status quo and developing new products is so addictive and rewarding. However, it is extreme hard work, no easy ways out, new services are not built in powerpoint nor in isolation. I was coaching a financial service founder and asked him to write down his product building learnings . Nothing more valuable than first hand experiences and lessons.

Great material for any innovation enthusiast,

1. It’s fuzzy, find your footing in the lean start-up process. The beginning is vague and uncertain, keep stoically following the lean start-up process and things will fall into place.

2. Get your hands dirty. Innovation does not happen on a few strategic slides or in a brainstorming session. You have to get out there and really dig deep.

3. Talk, talk talk; talk to as many people as possible and especially externally. Listen, observe and document the notes/takeaways. Later things come together and you start to see connections.

4. Focus on the customer, his problems and motivations. Let the customer talk about his problems and why he values them but don’t lapse into vague questions like “what would you like?” and certainly don’t slip into pitch mode “what do you think of this idea?”. Once you have the customer’s problems and motivations clear, always keep this as a guideline.

5. Don’t jump to conclusions and solutions immediately. Park your ideas and then focus again on the customer and his problem.

6. Start with a blank canvas. Start broadly and don’t let anyone put restrictions on you. Later, you can scope again.

7. Challenge all assumptions. “This doesn’t fit within policies and systems”, “this is too risky”, “this won’t work” etc. are not red flags.

8. It’s your product. Involve key stakeholders early on and be open to help from others, but stay at the helm yourself.

9. Don’t compromise on your key features. Test what your customers think are the most important and distinctive features of your product. These features are sacred, don’t let anyone tamper with them.

10. Celebrate small successes and share them with important stakeholders. Think of a successful test, prototype and certainly your first sales. A positive vibe around your product will help you later to get things done.