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Has COVID-19 brought disruptive business models?

By John, Eastpoint Software on 22 May 2020

Or, just regular, meaningful, innovation?

While it’s been very tough for so many, we have all seen COVID-19 bring out the best in individuals and in organisations.

With many existing business models thrown into disarray through COVID-19, organisations have adapted and evolved at a speed and scale never before seen.

In responding to the changing needs of the customer, businesses have done the very thing that we champion as software innovation partners: move fast and learn from your customers.

There is nothing new, or complex about this.

Its simplicity is one of the most appealing aspects.

That, and the fact is works. Time and again.

Straight forward innovation

Anyone involved in innovation will be familiar with the term disruption.

It’s the thing that many tech businesses strive for. Sure. Among disruption lies the gold!

But what about solving a real problem?

What about being specialists at something and doing a really good job at understanding your customers.

And using that understanding to, rather than disrupt, just solving their problem.

That’s what our local fruit and veg wholesalers, wine merchants, and thousands of other businesses and individuals alike did: when their communities had a real need, they rallied, and they innovated.

They solved real problems that real customers had. They got out there, with their make-shift order forms, their vans, and their teams of people that wanted to contribute to something meaningful.

Some will argue that creating sustaining new product innovations is harder than responding to a lack of delivery vans with more delivery vans.

And, there is no better way to validate a business idea that to just do and prove it with sales.

But how do we approach this when our idea is going to cost a small fortune, and take months/years to create?

Key questions for innovators to ask

For a new business venture to stand the test of time, it’s leaders’ must have a clear picture of the change they are striving to achieve, and why.

But too many think only from their perspective and fail to build an adequate understanding of the real driver for the innovation: the customer’s need.

We look for a validated “yes” to these three questions before we take an idea forward:

  1. Do you understand the real need for the customer?
  2. Is the customer’s need big enough for them to spend money on solving it?
  3. Does your customer feel your idea really solves their need?

We make use of a number of important tools to get there:

  1. Value Proposition Canvas. Creating a clear definition of why customers will value your innovation.
  2. Straight forward questions. Asking the right questions is a great habit to learn. We love The Mom Test for this.
  3. Design Sprints. Getting the whole team absorbed in the customer’s world to understand and solve their problem.
  4. Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) from The Lean Startup: Lightweight, fast and iterative test for your idea;

These tools help us validate that a proposition stacks up for the customer.

It is not a home run when we get three yes’.

It’s the first gate passed.

But getting a “no” here is where the real value is achieved.

A “no” makes everyone think hard to ensure the investment is a worthwhile one, and revise our proposition until that becomes a “yes”.

Ensuring we verify these points before proceeding not only validates the idea, but inevitably it also builds a deeper understanding of the customer, gets everyone aligned on what we’re trying to achieve (and why), and exposes new ideas about how to solve.