Four distinct stages make up the Lean Validation Process. Only once you've passed all 4 can you be confident that your product idea is worth developing.
- Validating the problem. Is this a problem worth solving? If users don't think this is a major problem, your solution won't be appealing.
- Validating the market. Some users might agree that this is a problem worth solving. But are there enough of them to make up a market for your product?
- Validating the product. The problem might exist, but does your product actually solve it?
- Validating willingness to pay. There might be market demand and a great product. But will people actually be willing to reach into their wallets and pay for it?
Validating several ideas
Let's take a look at how you might explore 6 different product ideas.
Let's consider how our batch of 6 great ideas fares when we put it through the Lean Validation Process...
- This idea fails at the first hurdle as we can't validate the problem.
- This idea validates the problem, but can't establish a market.
- This one also fails at problem validation.
- This validates the problem and market, but fails to validate the product.
- This demonstrates a pivot of Idea #4. Perhaps our first prototype failed, so we decide to build a new one. This time, we can learn from our mistakes and take a different approach. This idea successfully validates the product, but fails to validate willingness to pay.
- This final idea successfully validates all 4 stages. Of this batch of ideas, this is the one we should explore and develop further.
As you'll see, many of your great ideas will fail early in the process. It's incredibly common to find out that the problem you're trying to solve is simply not a problem that users are really bothered about. But with perseverance and iteration, you can come up with a product idea that successfully validates.
You might notice that the probability of validating each phase is rather low. You might need to finetune your original idea to address a more pressing problem you’ve discovered. This is absolutely fine. In fact, it’s encouraged. Being flexible and keeping an open mind about adapting your idea can pay off handsomely if done right. And that’s why this lean validation process pushes you to fail soon and fail quickly, before you get too attached to the idea or product.
Note that the criteria above, along with their sequencing, are all simply recommended guidelines. The ultimate goal is to be as lean as possible, and you’re the one in the best position to decide what that means.
Do I need to complete the 4 stages in this order?
Actually, you don't! Particularly if you look at the 4 stages and see that one of them looks to be a huge challenge.
In some cases it can be much harder to build a prototype (to validate the product) than it would be to build a landing page (to validate market demand).
These criteria, along with their sequencing, are all simply recommended guidelines. The ultimate goal is to be as lean as possible and you're the one who is in the best place to decide this.
You should validate all 4 before building your product, but jumping out of sequence can often be a smart decision.
What if an idea meets all 4 validation criteria?
If an idea meets all four validation criteria, then you’re free to move directly into product development if you choose! But you might instead choose to take a step back.
By working through the Lean Validation Process, you're sure to receive heaps of feedback from users. With this deeper understanding of the needs of your users you might realise that there's a bigger opportunity to tackle. In that case, you should feel free to pivot!
If you do, you can repeat the Lean Validation Process with your pivoted and improved product idea.
No matter which route you take, you can be confident that you're taking a strong idea into product development.