Last Tuesday, we kicked off friends and family testing of our MVP, this timing was both strategic and a byproduct of the hoops we’ve had to jump through to get me to Spain enabling my cofounder and I to work together in person on a daily basis.
Having been through the launch of different web products and features, I am well aware of the emotional landscape that arises for myself and others when it comes time for real world user testing. In a word …. it sucks ….. because this is where the rubber meets the road and all best intentions aside it’s often the first time ideas made manifest through a product itself sink or swim.
Depending on the roll you’re playing in the process of product development the specifics of emotional stakes will vary. But in all cases cultivating some kind of objectivity, I believe, should be job one in terms of mental preparation prior to putting your baby out there for the world to see.
From the first days of working on this project, my co-founder and I adopted the lean startup framework which supports the cultivation of objectivity through language and methodology. As you do in a lean context, we documented hypothesis and validation criteria for our MVP but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t found myself struggling with the bias of hope and attachment to ideas about what users want or how things should work.
The insidious nature of aspiration – required for facing the insanity of starting of new business and developing a product from scratch – is hilarious if you stand back and observe how the cycle works.
In order to self motivate and opt into the unknown of building something new one must blind oneself and champion the merits of one’s idea strongly enough to get past the harsh realities associated with risk taking. Well, I suppose one doesn’t have to but it’s a bit hard to avoid.
In my case, the blindness was reflected repeatedly through the following conversation:
‘Yes, I am moving to Spain to co-found a startup.’
‘No, I’ve never been to Spain.’
‘Nope, don’t speak Spanish.’
‘And yes, I know, Spain is in the middle of a huge economic crisis, yes, yes. Can’t wait to get there.’
At a certain point in time it seemed odd to me that people would be confused as to why I might take this particular leap. I mean, come on, why wouldn’t you leave your own country to go somewhere you don’t speak the language to start a new business venture?!?!
And given this kind of risk, now I need to be objective about the potential of my product?!
You gotta be kidding!
Well. Actually. It hasn’t been that hard. But even still – let’s face it – objectivity is no cuddly security blanket. It is however a slice of sanity. Sanity that leads to building the *right* thing; that being a product that paying customers will enjoy and use repeatedly. Knowing this is motivation enough to drop attachment to ideas and try to see clearly how users respond to early incarnations of a product concept.
Certainly, what I’m talking about is nothing revolutionary, but it’s none the less very real and no matter how many products or releases one has been through I would argue that objectivity isn’t necessarily something that is second nature.