The Great Idea Misconception


“All we need is a great idea!”

This is the starting point for most entrepreneurs, and it is quite misleading. A common belief amongst many of us entrepreneurs is that great startups come because the founders woke up one morning with a brilliant idea. The truth is, few companies were born from a single brilliant idea, and you definitely do not need to have a brilliant idea to be a founder.

Instead, great products and ventures come from listening to a customer with a pain point, and crafting a solution that solves that customer’s problem. Instead of starting with an idea, or even a problem, what if we start by picking a target customer? 

As an example, suppose we want to create a new product for teachers. We are not teachers and we have no clue what teachers want. So we could consider going through a process like this:

1. Go out and talk to teachers

Cold call them, meet with them, and flat out ask them “what causes you frustrations right now?” Many entrepreneurs skip this step, or wait a long time to do it. This should be #1. They will tell us exactly what problems they are willing to pay us to solve.

2. Discover problems

As we talk to more teachers, we’ll quickly uncover a slew of challenges that they have in their jobs. As entrepreneurs, it is our role to be creative and pinpoint which problems should be solved first.

3. Quickly build solutions

From here, we can build a simple prototype solution and test it with teachers. Let them try it and see if they are willing to buy it. If not, we’ll go back and build something else. This concept is the core of lean startup, a key discipline in building successful products.

4. Woo! We have an entrepreneurial venture and new product

Instead of racking our brains trying to come up with the next brilliant idea, we started with a customer we wanted to serve and learned about their problems. They gave us the ideas, and we used our entrepreneurial creativity and drive to build solutions. 

So, when you are thinking about what to do next, instead think about who you want to do it for, and they will guide you towards the right problems and solutions.

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