The ease of getting an idea to market these days has led to a dramatic rise in KYS Moments for many people. KYS Moments are the moments you have when you see someone else get successful with an idea that you had – you want to Kick YourSelf.
It may be a startup – “I had the idea for Afterpay a decade ago” or “I had the idea to sell [sneakers, cosmetics, NFTs, etc] online ages before they did it.” Or an investment – “I was going to buy Bitcoin when it was at $500”. Or even a book “I had the idea for ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’ years ago”.
I am sure there are ideas you have had that you have not acted on – perhaps leading to your own KYS Moments.
While we should never dwell on past mistakes, the only sure way to avoid KYSE is to act on your ideas. Thankfully innovation has moved from a dark art into much more of a science these days. Using the right process you can either get to success or fail fast and move on without wasting your life or your company’s resources on a bad idea.
These processes apply whether you are working on your own startup or working in a big organisation. Here is a quick guide to how to move from a simple idea to a successful endeavour.
STEP ONE: AMAZING IDEAS TO ACTIONABLE IDEAS
There are lots of ideas, but only some will be successful. As the great business theorist Kenny Rogers says in his opus work on corporate innovation, “The Gambler” – “Every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser, the secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep”. You need to move from just having lots of amazing ideas to having a few great actionable ideas.
Where do you get the ideas? A good place to start is looking at how to improve Product, Pricing or Process in whatever sector you choose. Great innovations improve all three at once. Look at how Uber has improved the taxi experience. To find good actionable ideas, look at the 3 C’s – Customers, Competitors & Context.
What are your Customers doing: Look at what parts of your current business your customers love (or hate). For example, the $2 Billion AI business Appen started as a result of the founder Julie Vonwiller, an academic linguist, finding that large tech companies wanted her assistance to train their AI speech algorithms. She went from not being able to find a job as a linguist to, as she describes it, “drinking from a firehose” as the customer demand was so great.
What are your Competitors doing: Imitation is a sincere form of flattery but it is also a well-trodden road to success. Facebook, Google and Nintendo were not the first but certainly have been the most successful in their market segment. Also think broadly about who your competitors might be – for example, the big technology companies are major players in many industries now, especially health and energy.
What is the Context of your business in the face of major trends: The world is moving incredibly fast and there are a number of major trends that can impact your business. Look at how your business can embrace technologies like AI, blockchain, synthetics, data analytics and genomics. Keep a focus on trends and be able to move fast. In 2004, Luke Annear had a standard health and safety auditing business in Townsville but he saw the opportunity of putting all those forms online. Now Luke is a Rich Lister and his company SafetyCulture is valued at over $2 Billion.
STEP TWO: PRIORITISING ACTIONABLE IDEAS
You have a great list of Actionable Ideas but, in a world of finite resources, those ideas need to be prioritised. Key parameters for making these difficult decisions are:
Unique advantage: What is your unique advantage that means you have a better chance of success than others. This may be your expertise in the area, but previous expertise is not absolutely necessary. Uber was not started by someone in transport, Netflix was not started by someone in entertainment and Airbnb was not started by someone in hospitality.
Timing: Is this the right time for the idea – for the organisation, for the customers, for the technology or even for you?
Energy: How much energy and resource can be applied to the idea. Does it have support at the highest level of the organisation or will it be lost?
Return on investment: Assuming perfect execution what is the ROI? Some problems are not big enough to be worth spending the resources to try and solve.
STEP THREE: EXECUTION
This relies on the right motivation and the right process.
Motivation: Successful businesses have one thing in common, they are obsessed with the customer and ensuring the customer experience is brilliant. Every decision should be looked at through the prism of how can we delight the customer. This makes decision making quite easy in some respects. We were asked by a large organisation to make their 25-page employment agreement shorter and simpler. We know that most employees dislike having to read their employment agreement, so we asked how can we make that experience a delight. Strange goal for a legal agreement – to seek to delight the reader. The ultimate product was a five-page employment agreement done as a cartoon strip. Easy to understand and kind of fun to read.
Optimising the customer experience is critical to a successful modern business. I have seen ransomware notices recently that have a link to a helpdesk which can assist you to understand the ransom process and even provide guidance on how to acquire the bitcoin to pay the ransom. We cannot be far off being asked to provide a star rating for your ransomware experience.
Process: Almost all startups and corporate innovation teams these days use Lean Startup methodology. This is a process which aims to rapidly discover if an innovation will be successful. It is an iterative approach where hypotheses (ideas) are tested as quickly and as inexpensively as possible. The learnings from those tests are then applied to the next iteration. Think experimentation and iteration rather than elaborate project builds, and customer feedback, not intuition.
As an example, seven years ago when I co-founded my side-business LawPath, I didn’t build out the legal services website you see today. The first day I sent an email to 2,000 small businesses describing what we were proposing to build. I got some okay feedback and so the first very small website was built. We took feedback on that site and built better functionality and so on and on – over seven years. Recently we celebrated our 200,000th user and a spot in the Deloitte Fast 50, a measure of the fastest-growing companies in Australia.
So please do not wait for any more KYS Moments. If you have an idea, there is a proven path to seeing if your idea is a winner or not. It’s not easy, but there are many fellow travellers and the experience is rewarding. Better to be the person who says “I invented Afterpay” than the person who says “I had the idea for Afterpay but didn’t act on it.”
Online Retailer Conference & Expo is the #1 meeting destination for the ecommerce industry. Nick Abrahams from Norton Rose Fulbright will be speaking at Online Retailer, where he will discuss Planning Ahead: Embracing Future Trends to Stack the Odds in your Favour.
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