The Next Big Thing
February’s goal was to “use the customer development approach to validate a business idea.”
Result ~ I tried lots of idea generation techniques but had no conversations with customers.
I feel that the goal (not the work) was wrong because it’s not useful to talk to customers when you haven’t narrowed in on a business idea.
I did make a lot of progress in February.
I have several exciting new business ideas, tools for running landing page tests, and new business idea research techniques so I feel the month was quite productive.
I also improved my personal productivity process a lot.
Overall a good month.
I spent a lot of February coming up with new business ideas.
I tried out a bunch of methods ~ Jon Yongfooks’ approach, forum research, research ideas from Barbara Sher etc…
I tried mixing in some strategic thinking by considering my personal constraints and interests. I tried a lot of idea evaluation approaches including Rob Walling’s 5PM approach.
Ultimately I concluded that ideas (solutions) are the wrong focus.
They’re usually quite zoomed in (here’s a specific thing I’d like to build) so they don’t allow a lot of leeway to explore a problem spaces.
They encompass problem spaces and audiences ~ it’s too many variables to think about at once.
They’re quite fluid. An idea may or may not be good… it’s impossible to know before you start exploring the market. When you start doing research you inevitably find that the market is too crowded, or there are better solutions, or something… which means you end up throwing out work.
They don’t fit into a broader vision. “Here’s a tiny product idea”… without a bigger vision tiny ideas aren’t very motivating.
I found that a better frame is jobs to be done which I’ll talk about later.
I’m getting ready to build more landing pages.
I had a hypothesis that building landing pages would add a lot of definition to ideas. I think this is true.
I’ve come to believe that Rob Walling is right when he suggests focusing on the market then the marketing then the design then the product.
Marketing defines a product.
Good marketing is what gets customers to try a product in the first place.
If you can’t afford to buy (or earn) customers somehow then there’s no point in entering a market.
Jobs to be Done
As I tried to pick ideas to proceed with I kept needing to focus in on the “Job to be done” (The idea is a community for freelancers… what’s the job to be done? Why do the freelancers need a community again?)
I found that jobs to be done is a more stable lense for looking at opportunities.
For example, “Study Chinese” has been something people have been trying to do for centuries. The solutions have changed (and will change again in the future) but the job remains the same.
Once you’ve found the big job (“Study Chinese”) you can break it down into smaller (also stable) jobs (“Study Reading”, “Study Writing”, “Study Speaking”, etc…).
There are lots of nuances and details to jobs to be done. I recommend checking out Jim Kalbach’s Jobs to Be Done Playbook to learn about the JTBD approach. It’s more much detailed and nuanced than I had originally thought.
Productivity and Shipping
My productivity system improved a LOT in Feb.
Naming projects is SUPER helpful. The names serve as anchors for tasks. By revisiting my major projects each day I make progress on big jobs bit-by-bit.
Kicking off work with a task list is very effective, but it did need some adjustment.
Big projects can be emotionally charged (this big project is scary let’s procrastinate for a while) so it’s easy to experience a sort-of writers’ block when the day starts. The solution? Warmup.
Adding a brief chunk of time where I jot down project-related random thought and idea moves me from ‘unmotivated’ to ‘motivated.’
Work accounting is great too.
Recording work in whatgotdone.com helps me focus on getting things done. Adding a not about tasks completed is a little mental reward.
Retrospectives help as well. I had forgotten that I had tried so many things in February. Going over my records helps me think through next steps.
February Wrap Up
What got done
The Next Big Thing
- Tried Jon Yongfook’s design thinking challenge questions brainstorming approach. The challenge questions approach is great. I learned that coming up with solutions makes ideas more exciting. I’m finding that thinking up “ideas” doesn’t yield very high-quality startup ideas.
- Built a brainstorming tool that was semi-useful.
- Built a tool for rapidly snapping together landing pages. Used the tool to replace the landing page on storytool.co. I refined my hugo-bulma static site tech stack. I have a hypothesis that I’ll get a lot of value out of running traffic tests.
- Tried Rob Walling’s 5PM approach for evaluating ideas. Didn’t have a lot of success. I like his ranking approach but I think it needs to be applied to jobs to be done, not ideas.
- Learned more about jobs to be done ~ I found that jobs to be done yields a more stable product focus. Jim Kalbach’s Jobs to Be Done Playbook has some super useful techniques for identifying opportunities.
- Mapped out the jobs to be done for my next project and selected a big job to focus on.
- Wrote The Entrepreneur Warmup and 2 Minute Rituals for Getting into Action.
- Improved the way images are processed on the blog. They’re more optimized and page load speeds are faster.
- Began experimenting with an idea I have for setting up weekly meetings - “Office Hours.”
The business / productivity
- Recorded my work on whatgotdone.com
- Kicked off each day with my Entrepreneur Warmup
- Found that I got a productivity boost by adding a 2 Minute Warmup
- Gave an engineering talk to a Taiwanese audience at the Kaohsiung Google Developer Group.
- Replaced the broken landing page on storytool.co
- Found a new office
- Found a new gym
- Beginning each day by running through my projects and writing task lists works.
- Writing retrospectives and tracking what got done is motivating.
- Motivation follows action so there needs to be an easy, non-judgemental task (2 minute ritual) that kicks off the day.
- It works better to build ideas around jobs to be done instead of solutions.
- I found that it was useful to start with an audience, brainstorm jobs to be done, organize jobs and then narrow in on a couple of job categories.
- Jobs to be done are useful when they’re at the right level of granularity, for example ‘send email’ is part of a lot of bigger jobs to be done. A bigger higher level job is more motivating and meaningful. For instance, helping customers is a more meaningful specific application of sending email. You can move up the ladder of abstraction by asking ‘why’ (why is your customer sending email?) and you can move down by asking ‘how’ (how does your customer help their customers?).
- Jobs are actually processes and involve lots of smaller sub-jobs. You can pick a meaningful high-level job and dig down to find smaller more solvable sub-jobs to tackle.
- How might we questions are ‘design thinking’. They’re useful for coming up with novel solutions.
- Projects become more real and motivating when you move from ‘problem space’ to ‘solution space.’
Goals for next month
The Next Big Thing
- I’d like to try to launch a small product on Product Hunt.
- I’d like to write 1-2 more blog posts.
- I’d like to develop my own theme for walt.fyi so that I can modify the landing page.
- I want to explore ways to collaborate with other makers
- We’re moving at the end of March.
- Continue creation not consumption challenge ~ maybe experiment with putting away the Kindle too.