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Your Idea Has Potential

In “Your idea is dumb” we talked about how compulsive critics will try to convince you that your idea is ignorant, and lacks value. In “Your idea is brilliant” we talked about how “yes men” will lavish you with lies, flood you with flattery, and deny any deceit.

What do you do? Now that I’ve got you paranoid about all the input you’re receiving, let’s talk about some ways to help ensure that the feedback that your potentially brilliant idea gets, is honest.

Who Do I Turn To?

Ultimately, you’re going to turn to many of the people who I warned you about, but as you’ll soon realize, it really isn’t about who you turn to, it’s how you do it. The first person you should turn to is yourself. You are a great screener for bad ideas. We’ll talk about some self-screening methods a little later.

Next up are friends and family. I was rough on them in the last 2 articles, but they are a great resource if you approach them properly, we’ll talk about some of those methods later as well. And finally, strangers! That seems like an obvious list, but like I said: it isn’t who so much as how.

To recap:

  • Yourself: by using some self-screening methods.
  • Friends and Family: By making them comfortable.
  • Strangers: by offering free candy By using some other neat tools.

How Do I Self-Screen?

You start by making some lists:

  • list cons (don’t worry about the pros)
  • list customer segments that it might appeal to (be honest)
  • list reasons why people would want it
  • list your competitors

Be someone else:

  • Be a critic of the idea.
  • Think from the perspective of a close-minded, irrational person. What concerns would they raise?

Think about the money:

  • What kind of upstart costs might you run into?
  • Do your customers have money?
  • How would you earn money with your idea?
  • How much would you be willing to pay for it? (honesty matters!)
  • Based on your price, do you think there would be enough profit?

How Do I Make People Comfortable?

Next up is trying to make friends and family comfortable. Naturally, they don’t want to hurt your feelings, so you need to get that problem cleared up quickly. Assure them that your feelings will not be hurt if they think it is a terrible one.

Some people feel more comfortable in groups so you could get a brainstorming session together and have your family list off pros and cons. If your friends/family are more private, then you can try to do one-on-one sessions with each person.

An important thing is to ask direct questions that are hard to dodge. Questions like “What is the worst part of this idea?”, “How could you see this idea failing?”, and “Would you buy this right here, right now, and why?”

The most important thing to do is not be defensive. I know it’s your idea, it’s your baby, but you can’t defend the idea. You have to send it out into the battlefield and see if it makes it back. Don’t criticize people back (good luck ever trying to get another honest opinion from them again!) and accept their thoughts and opinions.

If you can’t accept their thoughts or opinions, then chances are you’ll fail anyways just because you’ll be too blind to lead your product or company to success. If you can’t take criticism, then you need to go back to your cubicle!

A recap:

  • Brainstorming Sessions
  • Ask Direct Questions
  • Don’t criticize back
  • Accept the opinions and thoughts

How Do I Get Strangers’ opinions?

This one is a bit tougher, and can sometimes cost money. Immediately, the first thing I suggest is using anonymous polls. Polldaddy.com, Survey Monkey, and Facebook are all great ways to get free answers.

Another way, especially if your product is extremely demographic/geographic dependent, is to literally print up surveys, and stand around asking people to take it.

You might get some bored people willing to take it, but it’s often better to offer an incentive of some sort. An effective way to get the attention of a receptive crowd is attending a game house for bingo and recreational pool, public auctions (estate/business), or local bars where there’s a following for games and music. People waiting around are more apt to complete a survey than the busy ones. You may also hold a focus group, but this tends to cost far more money than your other options, and requires a ton more effort.

Lastly, and my favorite option is to work with a SCORE.org counselor. They are free, they are available, and they are experts. I won’t go too far into who SCORE.org is as I’ve written an entire article about SCORE.org before, but essentially, they are people who love business and want to help you with yours. They can help with just about any aspect in the business cycle, including offering opinions on your idea!

A Sweet Wrap-Up

Ideas are good, but successful ones are better (unless we’re talking snuggies, I hate those things). Getting input from people is extremely important during the design cycle. You might have a perfect product, or a dastardly dud, and you need help figuring out which one you’ve got. So ask around, and let us know how it goes!

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