Before you build your dream idea, you absolutely need to test the concept – or better yet, prove that the idea you wish to bring to life is a valid concept that addresses a real problem or need. To build a proof of concept for a business idea, it is critical to get input and feedback from people you know who can offer perspectives and insights related to what you are exploring.
You should either have one-on-one conversations or, better yet, conduct informal “focus group” meetings. In a focus group meeting you would ask everyone around the table for their opinions on different things that relate to your topic.
For example, let’s say that you have an idea to build a financial management platform that will increase financial transparency and build digital trust; this forms your hypothesis that there are unmet needs around transparency and trust. You’d want people whom you know who work in a financial position to participate in a focus group.
You’d ask them for their opinions about how important financial transparency is, to what degree there is distrust of financial information, what it would take to get them to try a new digital platform, what they won’t do and a myriad of other questions to probe them.
By gathering their feedback, you may find out that everyone is concerned about too much transparency violating privacy laws and confidentiality and that no one would use a digital platform that is not integrated into the applications they are already using. This would be extremely valuable feedback, poking holes in your hypothesis, but saving you from wasting time and money on a “value proposition” that no one values.
You need to get other people’s input and feedback on the usefulness of your concept (if it were already a product) and the way you plan to design it. You also have to identify the potential pitfalls, such as getting into trouble with government regulators who oversee financial transactions.
It is important to get feedback on the proof of concept from people other than your family, friends and significant other. They would likely have a tendency to give you biased feedback, potentially telling you what you want to hear for the sake of keeping a good relationship with you. What is crucial is proving the concept with the real world outside of your immediate network and comfort zone.
You may get contradictory feedback (which is subjective anyway) and you may not please everyone, but you can glean something valuable from all the feedback.
If Steve Jobs was doing an informal focus group for his concept of the iPad before it was ever built, most people in the focus group may say, “I would never use it.” Rather than get totally discouraged, Jobs may have simply concluded that they wouldn’t use it… unless it was radically simple and had the applications that people care about and want to use. He set out to create a product that people would use, even if they didn’t know it before they ever handled an iPad.
Test everything you hear, but also listen and take it in. Strive to understand each person’s perspective, but get as much feedback from as diverse a crowd as you can. It will help you to refine and tighten your concept. It’s part of continuous improvement.