How to simply validate or invalidate your business idea

For all of my interviews with an author, I usually write a short intro that introduces the person to my readers. Before I begin the interview with Cindy Alvarez, the author of Lean Customer Development, let me just say three quick things:
a. Her ideas are simple.
b. She reminds us that the most effective actions in business are within the reach of everyone.
c. Anyone starting a business or launching a new service/product should read her book.

Jenan: What is one idea in your field of interest, customer development, that you think is not on business leaders’ radars right now that should be?

caCindy: To benefit from customer development, business leaders need to take on some hardships. You can’t practice customer development AND get to say “I’m an expert in this domain, so this is what we’re going to build and sell” — you need to accept that you might be, probably are, wrong. Not only that, being wrong isn’t even predictable. It’s not clear when you go into customer development whether you’ll validate or invalidate your ideas. It’s not clear what you will learn. If you’re doing customer development right, you won’t be able to have a feature-based roadmap or plan a marketing campaign around features six months into the future. Because you won’t know in advance which features will move the desired metrics (more money for you, more value for your customers). The whole notion of a big-bang launch, where you keep your product under wraps and then unveil it with a flourish, is incompatible with customer development.

Of course, predictability and guarantees are already gone even if you don’t practice customer development. Consumerization of enterprise software, “there’s an app for that”, and constant updates have already gotten customers used to demanding what they need and refusing to be sold. But there are still business leaders who are still able to pretend that they have it all figured out.  Customer development demands that they admit that there’s a lot they don’t know.

Jenan: Thank you for your time, Cindy — all the best until next time!
June 15 2015

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