A great way to test if you know something is trying to teach it to others. We often coach teams and startups in design and innovation methods. This year, mentoring startups in E.ON’s accelerator :agile has been intense and great fun. We’ve mainly been working on two themes: minimizing waste and maximizing experiences.

Minimizing waste

There’s nothing more wasteful than building and shipping products that people don’t want. While many teams understand the value of prototyping, few seem to use the most efficient methods to learn what people might want.

A great first tool is the Mom Test that should be used when talking to potential users. It helps you avoid fishing for compliments that lead to confirmation bias. Next, the Concierge method can be used to test how much customers might value getting their problems sovled. Once you’ve started building a product, the Wizard of Oz method can help you fake features before you commit to implementing them.

Startups can try out things in the open and learn faster about their customers than larger companies can. Efficient experiments with real customers help you you avoid wasting time and resources.


Maximizing experiences

Once you know what to build, it’s time to nail the user experience. Usability and aesthetics are important, however we usually start by looking for the moment when users will experience “peak value”. When a product can offer just one experience that outshines all competing solutions, it’s a good start.

Products from startups cannot include long lists of features. Try to make people notice your new product based on one elegant experience that makes established solutions look old, slow and boring. Make sure this one thing really shines.

Identifying the moment of “peak value” can be tricky. A great way to focus on essentials is to create simple visualizations such as videos that show the moment when your solution helps users the most. These visualisations can then be used to test your hypotheses before you build anything. If potential customers like your vision, ask them for a real commitment such as their time to confirm that they are really interested.

These are just a few of our favorite design and startup tools. Once you start using some of them, you never again return to a “build it and they will come” mindset.