Move fast and break things, that is the goal right? Startups need to create big, audacious, goals, take on a heroic task and constantly iterate to eventually become rich. This is the key to success for any young company.
Except it’s not.
Radhika Dutt, a Product Development Executive, outlined a new approach — one that focusses on impact and puts the long-term goal ahead of short-term victories. And while it sounds like an ethical approach to business, it is equally about improving the chances of finding success.
“For every company that has been able to become successful, there is a graveyard of companies that have failed using this approach,” Dutt said.
Prior to diving into the radical product thinking, Dutt broke down the traps that many startups fall into. They are as follows:
Hero Syndrome: This is the problem of focussing on scale instead of making a real impact. It often involves trying to sell people products they neither want nor need. Or, it might mean expanding rapidly but offering a poor product.
Hypermetricimia: An issue that arises when Founders focus on popular metrics that don’t actually matter. This could mean focussing to much on MAUs without caring about if people actual spend time on the app.
Obsessive Sales Disorder: When companies start taking easy wins instead of learning to say no they can sabotage their ability to achieve long term goals. Think about it, if a Founder signs a bunch of deals that helps the bottom line, they may find themselves with a full year of deliverables that need to be executed and kills the bandwidth to move the startup forward.
Obviously there is a line that needs to be navigated. Startups have to survive, but they also can’t get chained down by deals that don’t move the business forward.
Pivotitis: This one is fairly self-explanatory. Companies can often struggle to define their direction and wind up constantly pivoting and going nowhere.
How to think about radical product development
The best part of Dutt’s talk was she provided concrete, tangible advice for business owners to implement. It starts with three core ideas which are :
- Find the problem you are inspired to fix
- Envision the world you are aiming for
- Engineer your way to getting there
Find the problem you are inspired to fix
While the headline itself is used across the startup world, Dutt approached the brief from a different angle. She brought up the example of Margaret Hamilton, the engineer who was a key person in the first lunar moon landing.
Dutt was able to interview Hamilton, who told her that she felt personally responsible for the lives of the astronauts. With this mindset, Hamilton approached the project thinking, “Everything that could go wrong will try hard to do so.” This allowed her to envision problems and fix them before they happened on the mission.
For startups operating in a less life-or-death environment, they need to observe the people they want to impact, feel their pain and then envision the world where they fix their problems.
Envisioning the world you want to create
When Facebook was growing as a company, they envisioned ‘a more connected world’ and did a fantastic job of achieving that goal. However, they failed to envision how people would leverage this for political gains or raise concerns about personal privacy. Now we see a company that cannot consistently react to controversies and criticisms.
Dutt said the vision, “Has to be shared by you, the team and the people’s lives you want to impact. Nodding along and saying ‘yes, I do want that world’.”
If a Founder meets a lot of people and they say the product is a bad idea, then listen and rethink the approach.
How do you create such a world
Dutt shared a wonderful Mad Libs-type of approach to finding an strategy to solve problems. It is as follows:
Today when [IDENTIFIED GROUP] want to [DESIRABLE OUTCOME] want to [CURRENT ACTIVITY] this is unacceptable, because [SHORTCOMINGS]. We envision a world where [SHORTCOMINGS ARE RESOLVED]. We’re bring this world about through [BROAD APPROACH AND TECHNOLOGY].
Not only does this help guide decision making, it helps customers clearly understand the company.
Engineer the world
Rather than ramming your way into a customer base and break everything along the way, Dutt suggests systematically integrating the vision into day-to-day life.
Ride-hailing in Southeast Asia is a good example of that. It started as just a taxi service, so people became familiar with the product. Then they added food delivery, then ticket redemption, then retail deals, then financial planning. Suddenly, the apps have become a necessary part of the lives of millions of people.
If they had launched with all of their products on day one, it would have been overwhelming to users would have rejected it.
In conclusion, radical product development is way of approaching business that tries to make ‘impact’ the star. It aims to cut through the noise, avoid easy mistakes and help startups build a loyal and enthusiastic customer base.
More information (and a free toolkit) can be found here.