“Validating” Your Idea: Much Ado About Nothing?

shakespeareI recently read an excellent post by Roger Cauvin titled Stop validating, start falsifying.

Roger makes a compelling case in his post that the theory of “validation” that is uber-popular nowadays in Silicon Valley – especially in “lean startup” circles – has its flaws.

In this post, I’d like to share share my thoughts on this.

The Big Mistake Product Managers Make During Idea “Validation”

The crux of Roger’s post perhaps can be summarized by this excerpt:

When you visit prospects, you don’t get reliable information by posing hypothetical questions. When you seek validation from someone, you will tend to get it.

The examples Roger gives in his post include:

  • Presenting a slide deck on a new feature/product to customers and asking whether they like it.
  • Naming a price point for a new product/feature to customers and asking whether they will pay it.

On these points, I totally agree with Roger. Such approaches to “validation” can indeed lead product managers astray. In fact, I’ve seen many product managers make such mistakes – by posing hypothetical, leading questions.

So, Is Validation Completely Useless?

When properly done, validation can be very helpful. So, how do you properly do it?

Roger has some great ideas in his post, including running “digital” experiments and watching customers at work.

I’d also add these tips:

  • Ask open-ended questions about problems your customers/prospects currently face.
  • Find out whether a large enough number of customers face these problems.
  • Only seek to validate problems currently faced by customers. Do not attempt to validate solution or pricing – these are hypothetical questions, and lead to more harm than good.
  • Figure out creative ways to run “digital” experiments Roger recommends in his post. These can include pre-selling a planned feature/product (for actual payment), etc.

By properly doing validation and focusing it on customer problems, product managers can build more successful products driven by actual customer needs. This is infinitely better than building products driven by the HiPPO, the loudest sales person, the latest industry fad, or other poor approaches.

To your success…

Editor’s Note:
Hundreds of companies use Accompa to capture customer needs, flesh out requirements, and build better products. Check out FREE 30-Day trial of Accompa or Sign Up for a 1-1 Demo.

Michael Shrivathsan

I'm your author, Michael Shrivathsan, an expert in product management with successful experience at several innovative companies in Silicon Valley, USA over the past two decades. I'm also a USPTO patent recipient. For my day job, I'm the VP of Product Management at Accompa, we make the popular requirements management software used by Product Management, Business Analysis, and related teams.

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