Don't Fall Prey to Innovator's Bias

Innovators are creators of new ideas. They are pioneers, ground breakers, developers, front runners, trailblazers.  If you are reading this article, you probably think of yourself as an innovator.  You get excited about ideas and how to turn them into something real.  You may also be an (aspiring) entrepreneur looking for the breakthrough product that can catapult you into the realm of Apple or Uber or, more modestly, a business of your own that can support you, give you a balanced life, and provide the spark that makes it fun to go to work each day.

The Danger of Bias

As an innovator, it's important to be aware that your creations and how you see them is influenced by your own bias.  Those biases might be completely correct and lead you to a grand slam business idea or they might blind you to important considerations that will put your creation on the shelf. So how do you know if your bias is helping or getting in the way of your success?  You need to test your assumptions and find evidence that supports them or refutes them.

Finding your Biases

This is where the Ash Maurya's Lean Canvas comes in (see template below).  Last month, I wrote about the Lean Canvas, an alternative to the Business Model Canvas that I have written about before.  Recently, Ash wrote a post about one of the most common questions he receives about the template: what is the right order to fill it out?  His answer:  it doesn't matter.  In fact, you should fill it out in the way that comes naturally to you as it is a great way to uncover your innovator's bias.

As you fill out the lean canvas, track the order in which you fill in the boxes.  What you write and the order that you write it in will help you uncover the "chain of beliefs" that underpins your idea.  Within that chain of beliefs is where you'll find your embedded biases.

Another way to think about the chain of beliefs is as a distillation of your idea's backstory. Often, the source of inspiration for your idea can tell you a lot about your assumptions.  Whether it was a problem that you felt needed to be solved, a solution that you think people will want to buy, or a customer segment that you want to serve each step in formulating your idea contains beliefs and assumptions about the problem, your solution, and your customers.

Testing your Assumptions

Once you have identified your chain of beliefs, you test it as part of building your growth engine.  As you test your business model, you will learn more about your current biases, uncover additional assumptions, and determine which assumptions are true and which are not.  By sorting through what you are learning and modifying your canvas the next iteration of your business model will emerge.  How exciting is that? 

As you test and refine your business model, remember the law of instruments:  "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."  If you're building a hammer, make sure your customers are actually using nails. Because if it turns out they're using bolts, it will throw a big wrench in your plans.

Everyone has innovator's bias, the trick is acknowledging it and not being blinded by it.  Lean Startup techniques can help, so can an outside perspective.  Check out our Start Up services or Contact Us to find out how we can be your outside perspective and help you build the company of your dreams.