Take Time to Walk Around The Problem

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development, skmurphy

“The success of most things depends upon knowing how long it will take to succeed.”
Charles Louis de Montesquieu

It’s rare for a new initiative to work the first time, at least when I try something new. I normally have to “walk around the problem” several times to look at it from different perspectives and allow for several iterations and small scale trials to work out problems in the recipe. This means “going ugly early” with rough drafts and incomplete thoughts and approaches:

  • one on one brainstorming sessions at a whiteboard or over Skype to review an approach
  • spreadsheet models, mockups of data sheets, draft presentations
  • advisory board review, playtesting sessions under “friendly fire”, presentations to a small audience
  • working with customers with backups available to make for a “safe fail” approach

Each of these steps ask for time and critique but the focus is less on solving the problem or completing the product and more on ensuring that I have walked around the issues and come away with a better understanding of what’s involved.

When  I have a complete picture I can make commitments that have an impact on a customer or partner’s business. This also works when I am playing a “midwife” role to a client’s new product or initiative. I focus more on making sure that we understand the prospect’s problem before trying to close them with a formal presentation or final proposal.

This can take longer than I would like or my clients’ would prefer, but in most cases a late yes is preferable to an early no for a new offering.

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