6 Tips For *Actually* Bringing Your Brilliant Business Idea To Life

Make, test, learn. Repeat.

Make, test, learn. Repeat.

Is your brain overflowing with so many great ideas they’re spilling down the sink? (Of course it is.) Here’s how to pick your favorite child—brainchild, that is—and start running.

In theory, your many ideas are all pretty brilliant and thus, viable. Hell, some of them could be the next big thing. But you’ll never find out how great they could be if they’re all just clustered together, hanging out in your gray matter.

Quick reality check: Ideas are cheap; implementation is a different story. How can you tell if any of your brainchildren can actually survive in the real world and are worth your time and energy?

Designers and entrepreneurs have ways of testing those light bulb moments. And they’re fast and dirty enough for anyone to try.

“Pre work is free work,” said Suzanne Abate, founder and chief product officer of 100 PM and an instructor at General Assembly. “The idea stage is actually the cheapest...for changing your mind.

“So, if you’ve got an abundance of ideas, investigate them all and let the idea(s) that garner the most enthusiasm propel you forward.”

 Will it hit the sweet spot?

“It’s not enough to have a good idea,” said Coe Leta Stafford, a Co-Managing Director at IDEO U and guest lecturer at Stanford’s d.School. “How does the idea ladder up to a bigger context that has an impact on others?”

At IDEO U, IDEO’s online school in design thinking, a course called Ideas to Action teaches students to examine ideas through three lenses:

1.     Desirability: What is the need behind this idea?

2.     Feasibility: What resources will it take?

3.     Viability: Is there a viable business model behind this?

Diagram IDEO - Feasibility Desirability Viability.png

“As a creative leader, my role is to ask the questions to get people to think bigger,” said Stafford, “so they can use their creative energies to navigate why this idea will or won’t work.”

Consider yourself—*all* of yourself

If you’re a solopreneur, think about how suitable the idea is for you, holistically.

Jocelyn Miller, a career coach who’s worked with Amazon, Google and coached dozens of women to start businesses, said, “Focus on the areas that you are passionate about, good at, and for which there is a market.”

So, there’s a second sweet spot for you to look for: the intersection of passion, skill and demand.

Well, don’t just sit there

Next, here’s what not to do: Sit around and think.

“I have seen plenty of people with analysis paralysis,” said Miller. “Analysis paralysis happens when the analytical side... has been taken to an extreme because the person wants to be diligent.”

If you’re stuck, use this tip from her: Set a time limit for yourself to act. Then tell someone who can hold you accountable.

Implement your idea IRL

Ok, you’re ready to do something. And you’re going to do ... what, now?

The answer is validate (or invalidate) your idea in the quickest and cheapest way possible.

IDEO’s rapid prototype of the Elmo Monster Maker App is a classic example of a fast, low-tech but effective solution. They pitched to Sesame Street with no app, and no Elmo. Instead, it was a guy dancing in a giant cardboard smartphone.

“Make [your ideas] tangible,” said Stafford. “Sketch them, visualize them, model them.

“At home, I have all kinds of paper, eight different types of tape, several types of glue, wood, fabric, pipe cleaners... There’s always something to be made. Put together your own prototyping starter kit.

“Here’s how to move your idea forward today: Make three different prototypes of [it] and create each prototype in less than one hour. Then, once you have these prototypes, share them with others and get feedback.”

Make, test, learn. Repeat.

While prototypes focus on the actual product, a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) tests the wider value proposition.

Rockstar MVPs are recounted in Eric Ries’ innovation bible The Lean Startup. Dropbox tested whether there was interest in its new fangled file-sharing software by measuring sign-ups off the back of a simple video. Zappos used the "Concierge/Wizard of Oz" approach of literally going to shoe stores and taking photos to post online, then going back to buy the shoes and mail them to the customer. Buffer followed Lean principles to test its premise with nothing more than a landing page.

“Determine first what you need to learn and then determine what is the lowest cost experiment you can deploy to get to that data,” said Abate.

Keep in mind that the MVP is not supposed to be a “go” or “kill” decision, writes Ries. If things don’t go right, consider pivoting before quitting.

Speak to peeps, and not your "yes" gals

Abate also said, “Get skilled at the art of interviewing.”

“If you’re really committed to learning whether your ideas are viable, then you need to talk to people who actually have the problems you’re trying to address.”

Stafford said, “Even share [your prototypes] with naysayers, people who are likely to shoot the idea down. These are the people who will teach you the most.”

Now, get to work.

Words: Juliette O'Brien
Photo: Stocksy