Startups have one of the most challenging and thrilling missions in the world - to create value where none existed before. Naturally, many who choose this path do not succeed. In all cases of developing a new product or service, decisions have to be made to balance the founders' vision with customer input. How can you do it right?
In our experience, the answer lies somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Let's first look at both ends of this spectrum...
Holding to Your Vision Above All Else
Your product or service vision first occurred when you had your aha! moment. Then you began executing to realize that vision. While executing you can't help but gather more data. You see your product take shape and new insights are formed. You test certain aspects of what you're building and you likely find that not every detail was designed correctly.
Eventually you expand beyond your initial test users to a more generalized audience. Every customer experience with your product offers more data for you to potentially incorporate.
Clearly, you can see that sticking to a vision without any regard for new data will lead to failure.
Building Exactly What Everyone Tells You They Want
Now to the other end of the spectrum - relying fully on input from others. Clearly as you gather more data it can be valuable. But giving it too much weight will cloud your vision, which was the impetus for the innovation in the first place.
This might sound like common sense, but I've had entrepreneurs start a conversation about a new product by saying they surveyed a bunch of folks and the product they are pitching is exactly what people said they wanted. Two comments here. First, trying to please everybody will result in pleasing nobody. And second, listen too much to your customer and other outsider input, and you won't create anything innovative.
How Do You Find a Balance?
Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer to this question. The best answer though is to find the balance that works for your culture. If you are honest with yourself and believe your vision is right and that customers simply don't get it - maybe you should see this as a red flag. Try opening up to input a little more.
On the other hand, if you are "shiny object" oriented, and jump to change the foundation your are building every time you get more data - maybe you should see this as a red flag too. Take a step back and remember what the most innovative aspect of your vision is. Keep coming back to that before you consider any alterations to your course.
It's not easy, but hopefully this small insight will help! Best of luck!
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