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Ideas that Produce Results #5: Fail Small, Succeed Big

by Sarah Thrift on February 24, 2014

We are making great progress. We have an idea and we know how to express it clearly.

This week’s article focuses on how to test your idea in a way that maximizes learning and highlights potential changes to the product/service.


There are 4 steps to do this. We look at these in turn below:

1. Get clear on what you are testing

Often when we have a new product/service, there are a multitude of things we can and may want to test for, such as the features of a product/service, its look and feel, how it can be purchased, and pricing. The thing is that it is typically hard to test many factors at once. Therefore you need to decide which factors you are testing for at which point. Thinking back to alignment, if you are working as part of a team you also want alignment behind what you are testing. What is it you are really keen to find out?

2. Design the test

There are two elements to designing a test.

The first element is to ensure that you avoid confirmation bias. This is to do with the wording of the test and the way it is framed. You need to be prepared and willing to be wrong. If not, you are likely, whether subconsciously or otherwise, just to be trying to prove your own beliefs or what you think you already know.

The second element is to ensure that the test gives an actual experience of the product/service rather than just talking about it.  For example, it is very hard for someone to tell you if they like your cookies or not unless they are able to taste them! Equally, it is difficult for customers to imagine what an online payment service looks and feels like without being able to access a sample website with sufficient functionality.

3. Read between the lines: see what your customers are actually saying.

When testing, your most important source of information is your customer base. However, the most important thing is not what they say to you, but how they react: for example, what their body language tells you. You should use these observations to ask further questions directed towards a greater understanding of what you are testing. At times, you also want to supplement the information you get from customers with broader desk-based research on customer behavior and trends.

4. What to do with the information you have acquired

Having conducted steps 1 through 3, you will likely have received some invaluable feedback, which you can use to improve your product/service. Again, you want to ensure that you are sharing and getting alignment behind the proposed changes to the product/service. Now repeat steps 1 through 3 with your modified product/service.

As soon as you have a viable product/service, you can launch it. Even once your product is launched, steps 1-3 should be regularly repeated so that your product is continually evolving and meeting the changing needs and requirements of your customers. We will talk more on this next week.

See you next week for our final installment of this Insight Series.


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