The Validation Board is a fantastic method to validate and refine ideas or apply a pivot at an early stage. At Duodeka we always use the Validation Board when we start working on a new idea. It is actually a ‘simple’ form of market research, but certainly no less valuable. In fact, we experience this method as one of the better ones, because you are forced to really get to work quickly to test whether your business idea is perceived as valuable by the market. As humans, we naturally tend to postpone the chance of rejection and that is why the Validation Board helps with perhaps the most important aspect: Get Out Of The Building!
With this method it is important not to spend too long completing the Validation Board once. Give yourself up to 1 hour and then kick yourself out of the building to approach and speak to potential customers.
Here you write as specifically as possible the definition of the potential customer you came up with. “Entrepreneurs” is therefore much too broad. Rather think of: Owners of SME companies between 10 and 50 FTE in the logistics sector in the Tilburg region. By writing down your Customer Hypothesis as specifically as possible, you immediately see concrete options to actually approach them. This is much more difficult with ‘entrepreneurs’.
Here you define the problem you think your customer has. Be sure to describe the problem from the customer’s perspective. “I think Indeed is a bad company” is not your customer’s problem. Rather think of: “My employees are not actively recruiting new staff”.
Here you define your solution, or your product / service. However, you only do this after the problem has been validated. The theory is simple: Every problem has several solutions. We also know from our own experience that defining a solution too early closes your mind to other possibilities and opportunities. You then look for confirmation of your idea and that is precisely not the idea. You need to look for validation of other people’s problems.
Here you define the different assumptions that lie under your defined customer and problem. Brainstorm as many assumptions as possible in a short time. In our case, the following assumptions are conceivable: Employers in the logistics sector are looking for new personnel. Employers in the logistics sector want to activate their employees to recruit new staff. Employees are willing to nominate new staff. Vacancy platforms do not generate enough new staff, etc..
Then choose the riskiest one from all your assumptions. This is the one assumption that, if it turns out to be false, makes your whole idea obsolete. In our case that is: Employers in the logistics sector want to activate their employees to recruit new staff. If that assumption turns out to be false, then our defined problem is wrong.
After choosing the riskiest assumption, you want to start validating. We often use interviews with the defined customer for this. A major challenge in conducting such interviews is to ask as few leading questions as possible. Many people, here too, tend to look for confirmation instead of rejection, while you want to look for that rejection. If you don’t get it, then you’re baked!
MINIMUM SUCCESS CRITERION
Then you agree a target with yourself about when you consider it a success. For example, how often do you want your riskiest assumption confirmed?
You do this to force yourself to be able to look at the results honestly and not to play a game with yourself of “Yes, but….”. Again, be open to rejection!
GET OUT OF THE BUILDING
So, now we finally come to the best part: GET OUT OF THE BUILDING! So now you get to work on your interviews.
A good question to ask is: What is your biggest problem with […..]? In our case, that would be: What is your biggest problem with recruiting new staff? Ideally, your customer then says on his own: “Phew, I can’t get my employees active by bringing in new staff themselves!”. Often, of course, you don’t live in an ideal world, so you don’t (immediately) get the answer you want. However, you will always have to ask yourself: If someone does not experience something as a problem in itself, is it a big enough problem?
In short, be specific, but don’t send anything. And look for rejection instead of confirmation.
When you have achieved your own definition of success, which is often not the case the first time, it is time for a pivot. You can pivot on one or both hypotheses: Your customer and your problem. Of course, try to incorporate the insights from your previous interviews as much as possible. Adjust your hypotheses and go through the rest of the Validation Board again. Until your definition of success has been achieved.
Image courtesy of https://www.leanstartupmachine.com/validationboard/
The real Duodeka fan already knew it: The examples mentioned relate to the RecruitingFriends developed by us. A fantastic platform that allows employers to set up a referral program that enables their own employees to recruit new employees.