Night 2 – Idea Exploration and Creative Thinking

In 2017, I attended Phase 1 of the New Frontiers Programme which is run by Enterprise Ireland. The programme ran two nights a week over six weeks. There was no fee to attend. I would highly recommend this programme to anyone starting a new enterprise, whether your idea is just an idea or is a semi-developed product. What follows is a post which gives an outline of night 2 of the course. When fully published, there will be 11 posts documenting all nights of Phase 1. To see a list of published posts, click here.

Tonight was our first night in The LINC Blanchardstown and the topic for the evening was Idea Exploration and Creative Thinking. The session was hosted by John O’Loughlin. Before our session started it was explained to us that we should see challenges to our business ideas as positives. Essentially, it is good to get negative comments as it is a way for us to discover potential flaws with our businesses. Finding out about them allows us to resolve the issues before a customer or competitor spots the weakness.

John asked each of us for  30-second answer to the question, ‘What is your startup and what does success look like for you?’, My answer was ‘An online booking platform and success would be working for myself.’ I might have had a different answer if I’d had more time to think about it.

We talked about Product Market fit and were referred to Marc Andreessen’s’ blog. You will know you’ve got Product Market fit when you feel that you cannot keep up with the momentum you’ve generated. It is like jumping in front of a parade apparently. To help achieve it, you need to create the illusion of progress.

We then carried out a workshop activity. The two takeaways from it seemed to be that negativity for negativeness sake has no place in problem-solving and that it is important all voices are heard fairly when trying to solve a problem.

We spent some time learning about David Kelly of IDEO and his approach to identifying problems and solving them. Essentially, he watches somebody carrying out a task and sees where the difficult/inconvenient steps are. He then goes about getting his multicultural, multi-skilled team to come up with solutions. Using the ethos from the last paragraph.

Finally, we were introduced to The Mom Test. This had nothing to do with writing up a quiz for middle-aged women. Instead, it demonstrated how to garner useful information from customers and prospects without biasing their answers by the way you ask your questions. It is something that I thought I was generally good at but I will be more conscious of it as I am speaking with both customers and prospects tomorrow.

Looking back on notes I made throughout the night, apart from writing the above, I noticed myself making notes about the thought that I was having throughout the class such as ‘Email X regarding SMS prices’ and ‘cold call business Y’. These things were not directly discussed during tonight’s session but I think it is interesting how such actionable thoughts are coming to me during these sessions.

My main takeaway from tonight, however, was a discussion I had with one of the other participants about identifying my ideal customer. As users are geographically dispersed, differ in gender, business types and age, I was finding it hard to find what they have in common. After this discussion, I now have decided that my ideal customer is a business owner that operates through appointments and does not currently have an online booking facility. In other words, it is a group of people that share the same problem that my product solves.

As an aside, I came across this article from Hiten Shah.

Read Night 1 – Introduction

Read Night 3 – Idea Exploration and Creative Thinking

Read Night 4 – Market Analysis / Customer Identification

Read Night 5 – Route To Market

Read Night 6 – Lean Business Model Canvas

Read Night 7 – Marketing Communications

Read Night 8 – Legal Issues

Read Night 9 – Business Case Document and Team Makeup

Read Night 10 – Financial Planning

Read Nights 11 & 12 – Presenting The Case

If you know someone that would benefit from online booking, please let me know about them. I will send you a two paragraph email for you to forward to your friend so it couldn’t be less hassle for you to help a couple of Irish businesses to grow!

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