Disappointment: You’re Not So Novel
Saturday was a rough day for the team. As of Friday night we believed we had three great ideas that would be easy to prototype over the weekend. Idea one: A temperature measurement patch with wireless transmission that could be placed on the forehead of babies to monitor fevers and give parents peace of mind. The idea being that if the fever rose to a dangerous level, parents would be notified through a wireless monitor that they needed to intervene and cool their child, administer over the counter drugs, or, in severe situations take their child to the hospital. The second idea revolved around simplifying expensive body mass index scales to a device that measured the fat content in the body without the weight to keep the cost of the system down. The third idea was more fun: The product was an android and social based blood alcohol measurement device. Imagine being able to tweet to your friends how drunk you were with proof! Okay so maybe that one isn’t the best idea but really knowledge of the state of your friends could help people keep each other out of trouble if they were at different, but nearby parties.
Google quickly dislodged our ideas. Although the baby temperature monitor didn’t exist in the form we had envision the entire team simply lost faith in the idea and quickly poked holes in the rest of the plan. There was a lack of faith that a consumer product would be worth pursuing, that the market was too niche and the need might not be so great. Looking back I think we set our expectations too high and in fact we probably should have pursued this idea. I personally favored it because I thought it could be prototyped in the given time frame. Our expectations to identify and produce a flawless business over a weekend probably wasn’t realistic. What business plan scores a 10 out of 10 in all of the relevant facets in which a business is typically judged?
Reboot: A New Direction
At that point we had lost a little energy and enthusiasm. Without a top notch idea and already a few hours into the second day we needed something quick. I suggested an idea I had looked at years ago which would incorporate human track, in a more granular fashion, within amusement parks, malls, airports, museums etc. The idea was to use RFID installed into tickets or bracelets to provide additional anonymous data regarding traffic patterns within the venues.
What was interesting was that our team got bogged down in contention over the direction of the product and business plan. It was an example of people gravitating toward what they knew best. I, as a technology person, thought we were selling the tracking system and possibly the data. While the business and marketing members of the team questioned whether we were selling data, or a marketing model which would turn into what the end customer wanted which was added sales or “conversion” of non buying patrons in to buying patrons.
The discussion quickly turned into an issue of “what problem are we solving?” We all recognized that we needed to be solving a problem to have a product and a business. This was a hard question to answer. I felt that data was valuable. Businesses put a lot of effort into tracking the movement of people and their purchasing patterns. This system would give them added fidelity.
Unfortunately while myself and another team mate went round in circles for some time, some of the other team members became disengaged and disenchanted. We all got back together and had a powwow. Honestly I thought we were on the verge of disbanding. We were all tired and no one wanted to start from scratch with only a day’s worth of time left.
Pull It Back Together
After some talking we all wanted to make the team work and produce something. Having had difficulty identifying a crisp clear problem we went back to the drawing board to focus on our skills and interests. Then we each listed five problems we saw in the world and voted on our five favorite for the team. This let us to some pretty interesting options to work on. These were great problems. Then we ran into the next road block. UH OH WE NEED SOLUTIONS! Pitching solutions to our top five problems was tough. Given the short time frame, off the cuff methods of solving a lot of the recognized problems revolved around websites and services and in some cases franchise models. All of these were things most of the team members didn’t get excited about.
It was at this point that we had a revelation. The entire team consisted of analytical “hole pokers”. We were all very skilled at identifying the problems with products, markets, and any other down sides to our plans. We lacked the pie in the sky chase the dream member of the team. This was a useful piece of knowledge. Now that we knew our team dynamic, and how it was hurting our progress, we could attack the internal problem.
The Seven Hour Business Plan
The new strategy to our next (and final) round of ideation had some ground rules to address our slighted polarized team dynamic. If you have a problem with an idea or a path we are taking, bring it up, but only with an accompanying work around or solution.
Interestingly we ended up circling back around to our initial idea framework of sensing devices for the pseudo. Our final design approach was to tackle a niche market: breath monitoring for yoga. Jeff was well acquainted with yoga and indicated that consistent well controlled breathing was critical not only to yoga but also to overall health and mental well being.
Well, we had Sunday morning and part of the afternoon to pull this together and HOPEFULLY produce a working prototype.