The Mindset for Innovation : Everything is an Experiment

When most people think of innovation, they think of the execution phase. This is the phase where you’re actually building and executing your innovative idea. Very few people consider this developmental phase to be experimental; for many the innovation process begins with the idea and moves very quickly into the development phase, ending with a big product launch and millions of dollars of revenue. Easy, breezy.

However, rarely does “version one” of your executed idea make it into the marketplace; often the innovation process is a series of twists and turns as you learn new information that forces you to adjust to the markets. If you go into the execution phase with an expectation for learning, you will improve your chances of nailing your value proposition, reduce your development costs and eliminate frustration due to unrealistic expectations.

Before you begin building anything you should do two things:

1. State Your Hypothesis

What is your hypothesis? What do you believe to be the problem? What are you offering as the solution to this problem? Specificity is your friend. You can begin with the following statement:

Hypothesis: “I believe that [your target audience] will [measurable action] because [reason].”


Hypothesis Example: Groupon

The original value proposition for Groupon was to create a solution for local businesses to find potential customers (Hypothesis: I believe that local small businesses will provide discounts in exchange for being introduced to potential new customers)

Hypothesis Example: Zappos

The value proposition for Zappos involved created a solution for customers to stop for shoes online via a massive, one-stop, retail outlet. (Hypothesis: I believe that customers will purchase shoes online despite the fact that they can’t try the product before buying them)

2. Define Your Experiment

Remember that your hypothesis must be testable, measurable and have the potential of failing. What are you testing?  How will you measure your success? 
Now you’re ready to create a prototype to test your hypothesis. Please note that it’s best to take a “content first approach” to testing your hypothesis. Your prototype may not even require coding.


Prototype Example: Groupon

Groupon was originally run on WordPress because they only needed to test one thing: will local small businesses provide discounts in exchange for being introduced to potential new customers.

Prototype Example: Zappos

Zappos’ first prototype involved visiting local shoe stores to take pictures of shoes to post on their website. If someone purchased the shoe via their website, they simply went back to the store to buy the shoe and then mailed it to the customer. There were no large distribution centers. No inventory to purchase or manage. No call centers. No enterprise web application. Simply a website and pictures of shoes.

Remember that your hypothesis must be testable, measurable and have the potential of failing. What are you testing? How will you measure your success?


Kishau Rogers

Kishau Rogers is the editor and founder of The bigThinking Project. The bigThinking Project is a resource center and collaborative innovation project which promotes the principles of systems thinking. Our mission is to empower the next generation of innovators to think bigger, to think better and to create solutions which make significant impact in the areas that matter. Kishau Rogers is an award-winning entrepreneur with over twenty years of experience in the computer science industry. She is a serial entrepreneur having founded and co-founded companies such as Websmith Group, TimeStudy, PeerLoc Inc., and Websmith Studio.

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