Validating at the Climate-X 3Day Sprint

Validation is about seeing beyond our own perspective

Validation is the process of checking to see if our view of something is really true. Often, it’s hard to tell because we only ever see anything from our own perspective. The way we see the world depends on our unique life experience, values and much more. Generally, our perspective is our reality.

Yet, the more different viewpoints you can consider, the closer you’ll get to a full, real picture. Validation allows us to check that we’re not just making stuff up. For instance, is there really a need for our product? Is there a market for what we’re selling?

Good validation involves a scientific approach

Validation is about running robust experiments to check our assumptions. It’s the difference between what you think you know and what you know you know.

At Climate-X and in any business startup, validation requires people to think like scientists. You have to test your idea by running experiments. Like scientists, we’re trying to get to the truth by either validating or invalidating our hypothesis. Even if we’re keen to prove our theory, it’s essential to avoid bias if we want our idea to succeed.

Validate the right thing in the right order

Which assumptions could undermine your whole business model if they’re wrong? The Social Lean Canvas prioritises the most-risky things and provides a structure to follow to validate each step. First, you consider how your idea can add value. You’ll need to design an experiment to check this – will people pay or act to engage with your product?

Qualitative data contains gold

Qualitative data may be easiest to collect. It’s conversation-based and the key is to be open to discovering the unexpected. Henry Ford is reported to have said that if he asked his customers what they wanted, they would have asked for faster horses, rather than his radical invention, a mass-produced motor vehicle. This doesn’t mean that we know better than the customer. Instead, it means that the key to a good solution is digging into the intricacies of the problem itself.

Listening to people is similar to panning for gold; you have to sift through the rubbish to get to the gold. But if you listen carefully you can find out how to add real value. To understand people’s motivation beyond the words, choose questions that can elicit full responses. Some ideas might be:

  • how do people deal with the problem now
  • why do you do it this way
  • do you ever do it differently?

Quantitative data is your friend

Quantitative data is expressed as numbers, so it works best when you have a good amount of information to work with. For example, you may be able to use sales figures if you are selling a lot, or run a survey if you have a big list of people to question. To collect qualitative data, you need a broad enough sample group to get a good feel about what is happening across a market.

Validate your customer

When you’re starting out, ‘everyone’ is too broad a customer. To restrain your customer segment to a focused target, consider things like who has the highest need, or is likely to be an early adopter. Get a specific persona in mind and then run rigorous tests to make sure you can deliver a solution they’ll value.

Don’t freak!

If your tests and experiments invalidate your idea, don’t panic. Invalidating something is as valuable as validating it, if you do it early. If you find you’ve made a wrong assumption, go back to the last step and find firm footing once again. For example, if you know you’ve got a strong purpose, go back to that step and re-investigate your impact. We’re dealing with big issues at Climate-X, so don’t be overwhelmed. You may go forward and backwards, but overall, you’ll be progressing bit by bit. And that’s where the real value is.

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