Validation: 3 tools to help test your ideas

You have this great idea that gets you excited and you believe is solving a problem – what happens next?

The reality is, until we go out there and test whether there is a need for your product or service, everything is an assumption! So how do we validate an assumption? Here are 3 tools to help guide how you might test an idea and validate whether there is a need for your product or service.

1. Use a Validation canvas

The Validation Canvas founded by Ash Maurya is much like the Lean Canvas, as it acts as a tool to guide your thoughts onto paper and action. The Validation Canvas helps articulate all your riskiest assumptions in the features and value you think your idea is adding. It helps connect the dots between the value proposition you are assuming you are creating for your customers and how you might measure whether your idea is delivering on this.  The Canvas also documents methodical pivots, something many start-ups have experienced throughout their validation journey.

An example of a startup that went through the journey highlighted in the Validation Canvas is YouTube, which initially was founded in 2005 as a dating site. They assumed that people would want to share videos of themselves on their platform with the intention of finding a date. They even tested it by paying people $20 to upload dating videos in their early days, and had very minimal traction. They then pivoted to opening their platform to any video, and the rest is history. They exponentially grew and got acquired by Google.

YouTube’s founders openness to listening and iterating based on their market validation is commendable. This Validation Canvas is a tool to guide action in this validation and iterative process.

2. Speak to your potential customers and beneficiaries using the “Mom test”

We all have family and friends who love us dearly, and tend to support all our ideas even if they have to offer a few white lies to make us feel validated. We love them for this, but when we are testing our ideas we want to make sure we are gathering accurate intel in order for us to create valuable products and services.

‘The Mom Test is a set of simple rules for crafting good questions that even your mom can’t lie to you about’, developed by business author Robert Fitzpartrick.

This Mom Test Video highlights how to decipher between good and bad questions when validating your ideas.

The summary of the mom test and asking good questions is:

  • Talk about their life instead of your idea
  • Ask about specifics in the past instead of generics or opinions about the future
  • Talk less and listen more

Asking the right questions and listening to your customers and beneficiaries will help validate whether your idea is adding value and whether there are certain elements that can be iterated.

3. Create a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and get feedback

If you have an app or a tech platform in mind, sometimes creating a MVP mock-up to help users visualise and interact with a product can help give iterative feedback. Mock-ups can be created using wireframing platforms like Miro and Sketch.

If you have a physical product, like Miks Chai, sometimes the best feedback is gained by putting yourself out there. In their early days, the founders of Miks Chai sent out samples of their first iteration of their chai mix in basic packaging to friends, family and the general public at markets and other events. This allowed them to better understand their market’s taste and what they might value in a social enterprise tea company.

They learnt that many people valued the story-telling that came from purchasing their teas. After asking many ‘mom test’ friendly questions, and listening to in-person feedback through people taste-testing their chai, the founders invested resources into their branding, copywriting and marketing, highlighting their story-telling which had a significant impact on their sales and impact.

Validating your idea can only be done by putting your idea out there and gathering feedback. It is an important process to ensure that you are creating something that people want to use and purchase before you invest time, energy and money in building traction.