The picture in this blog post was taken in Jackson Hole, Wyoming “above the clouds”. There is a phenomenon known as temperature inversion where valley temperatures will be 30-40 degrees colder than at the top of the Teton mountains. This lets you literally ski through the clouds on these special days. I’ve taken that special cloud moment and tried to apply to it the mistakes I’ve made along the way and how to better proceed forward.
The biggest mistake I’ve made (and surely numerous others) is getting lost in the clouds of an idea. The mantra of the information revolution (and soon to follow mobile) embedded in most individuals the notion they should strive to change the world. I’ll try to layout why this way of approaching ideas implementation (especially in our world today) is not only ineffective but it can actually stall any great things that your future self could be accomplishing.
It’s in our human nature to dream. We have immense capabilities to imagine things to be for better or worse different than reality. I strongly believe this has tremendous carry over into launching products or ideas into the marketplace. Our tendency is to imagine this life changing idea that if we could just make perfect, then everyone will line up to use. The problem in this is that real life unfolds on the ground; not in the clouds. I’ve been guilty too many times: if we could just add one more thing or change the hue of the color of our logo, then it would be perfect. The idea of building something perfect before testing is the symptom of an underlying emotion: the fear of failure.
**this didn’t apply in the industrial era – bridges, planes, cars, and buildings had to (kind of) be perfect before letting the market validate them**
The brutal truth is that the free market is the most honest tool we have to judge whether or not something is viable. Asking market consumers to not only use your product but to pay the price you’re asking will give you more (honest) information than any focus group or brainstorming session with your team. But asking this question is important, and the earlier you can ask it, the better equipped you will be to navigate the storms to come.
So how do I test an idea?
- Don’t ask yourself or your team how you can change the world (this is kabuki).
- Ask what’s the least expensive test I can run to get my idea into the market.
- Set a goal to do this in the smallest timeframe. Whatever you come up with, you should be able to shrink it even further.
- Embrace the fact it won’t be perfect. Nothing ever is.
- Take the feedback you receive from the market and use it to iterate your product or idea.
- Repeat these steps over and over until you are satisfied.
In Zero to One, Peter Thiel claims that technological process has stalled since the 70’s stating the internet hasn’t done much for the betterment of society which has distracted us from making significant gains in other fields. What the internet has done is given anyone the tools to launch an idea into the market quickly and efficiently. Don’t waste precious time and money being stuck in the clouds.