January 2014

Ideas that Produce Results #1: Meet a Need

by Sarah Thrift on January 27, 2014

So you have an idea, or several ideas. That’s great! But how do you know if it is going to be successful.


There are many factors that determine whether an idea is ultimately successful. This starts with assessing whether your idea really meets the need.

If you are a business, your objective is to make money, which means you need to know that your idea is commercially viable, i.e. will customers pay for it, and what are they willing to pay. You don’t need your product/service to make money immediate. In fact, it is rare that this is the case. However, you need to know that over time your product/service can be profitable, either as a stand-alone, or through the ancillary income it stimulates.

To make money, a product/service typically needs to do at least one of the following things:
• Meeting an unmet need. This is sometimes one that the customer is not consciously aware of.
• Tapping a new market e.g. different location.
• Providing a better product/service than that offered by your competitors.
• Providing a product/service that is cheaper to customers than existing ones.

Once you know which of these your idea satisfies, you need to work out the size of the potential market. For example, if you are meeting a previously unmet need, you should try to work out how many potential customers this need applies to, and how much they would be willing to pay for this product/service. This will involve both desk research and getting feedback from potential customers. It is the art of combining these two that will produce the most accurate estimate of your potential market size.

If you are a non-profit organization, many of the same principles apply, even though it may not seem so at first. For example, new products/services should meet an unmet need, rather than duplicating what is already out there, or should be better and/or more cost-effective.

What happens if you have several ideas? In part two next week, I’ll share how to prioritize your ideas for maximum success. See you next week!


I am delighted to announce a series of 6 articles on Ideas that Produce Results, starting next week and published every Monday.

These articles are structured around 6 critical areas for success which I have identified through my work with hundreds of businesses and non-profits over the last fifteen years.

These 6 critical areas cover how to know if you have a good idea, how to test the ideas, and how to refine the idea to produce maximum results. The topics week-by-week are:

1. Meet a Need: How to get off to the best start by confirming that your idea meets a customer need. If you are a business, this means ensuring that your idea is commercial, that it can make money. If you are a non-profit organization, this is about ensuring that your idea meets a need which is important and currently unmet.

2. Prioritize your Ideas (Or, Choose or You Lose): Trying to realize too many ideas at once never works. Article #2 will include techniques for selecting your most promising idea(s).

3. Align or waste time: Whichever idea(s) you decide to take forward, it’s important to get alignment behind them. Alignment is not the same as consensus. In fact, alignment is getting people to support something even when they are not in 100% agreement.

4. Keep it simple: Now you have your idea(s), however complex they are, you need to find ways to articulate them simply and succinctly. Imagine you have to explain your idea(s) to a 10-year-old child. If you can do this, then you have succeeded.

5. Fail small to succeed big; test test test: Find ways to test your idea(s) with your intended customers. Be sure to watch how customers respond to your product or service and not just what they tell you. Often it is from these observations that you will learn the most

6. Evolving your ideas: All markets change and evolve. A successful product/service today does not guarantee any success in the future. This final article is about ways to keep evolving to meet customer and market needs.

I look forward to this exciting journey with you over the ext 6 weeks.



New Beginnings

by Sarah Thrift on January 1, 2014

On the first day of the New Year, here are some thoughts for making the most of this new beginning:


  • Know yourself. Plato said that “the first and best victory is to conquer self”. It is through really knowing ourselves as we are that we can truly develop ourselves. New beginnings are an excellent time to take stock of what you know about yourself. What are your strengths and your weaknesses? What did you excel at in 2013 and where did you fall down? Write down the answers to these questions and ask friends and colleagues for their feedback. Make it your quest for 2014 to learn more about yourself. Keep writing it down as you continue to learn more.

  • Care for yourself: If you want to perform at your best, then just like an athlete, you need to be looking after yourself – what you eat, how much you exercise, how much and how well you sleep. Don’t be tempted to take shortcuts in any of these areas. A few nights of little sleep may be unavoidable at times, but if it becomes a habit then sound the alarm. We owe it to ourselves and to the organizations we work for to perform at our best and we can’t do this if our bodies are suffering

  • Manage yourself: Now that you know yourself, be in control of yourself. Observe your emotions and moods and learn to regulate them. Be aware of your impact on others and adapt your behavior to fit with each circumstance. Have a positive frame of mind as this helps you and everyone around you (it’s contagious!). Reflect on the ways in which you can bring positivity in your home and workplace and in so doing build the foundations of a positive environment.

  • Create a 2014 vision statement: for yourself and if you have one, for your business. This is about writing down what you or your organization want to be. Take time to reflect on what your vision is and to choose the right words to accurately articulate it. Pin the vision statement up by your desk or by your bed and then read it every day. Every day, ask yourself: in what ways did my actions today take me towards my vision for 2014?

  • Mentor – be one and find one: being of service is a great honor, not to mention immensely satisfying. Look for someone in the workplace who would benefit from your time and expertise and offer to be their mentor. While you are at it, also find yourself a mentor. You are never too old nor too experienced to learn from someone else.

  • Express gratitude: to your loved ones, to those you work with and to those with whom you make a brief acquaintance. Make this a daily practice. At the end of each day, as the last thing you do before going to sleep, it’s also remarkably powerful to write down 10 things you are grateful for.

  • Believe you can overcome. To quote Henry Ford, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right”. Giving up simply is not a option, however hard something is. By believing you can win, you believe in yourself.