Laura Klein has a thoughtful post up about validating problems and needs and behavior before product. I agree with her. It still doesn’t mean that you’ll get things right but you can prevent a lot of wasted effort.
It again made me think about the liberating power of deciding to focus on learning goals, rather than production goals.
In startup land we are too often in a huge production hurry: get product out to market so we can get PR buzz so we can get some undefinable moving target called “traction” so we can raise money so that we can then become awesome.
And so you see people taking bad products to Scoble, which is a marketing move, and then excusing crap by calling it an MVP, which is a learning tool not a growth tool.
Get off that frenzied race. We say this over and over but so few teams actually do it: you need to get the problem/need right and the formula right. By setting your goal as learning, rather than product, you free yourself up to run much smaller, tighter experiments, which will in turn lead to a much better product with less wasted resources.* Some of those experiment might look a bit like product but only if that serves the learning goal (and be concrete and specific about your goals).
To de-jargon this conversation, I’ll pull out two age-old phrases: ”measure twice, cut once”; “try before you buy.”
A little disciplined, focused patience can lead to greater speed and better use of resources.
* and frankly, I think will reduce the occurance of startups teams frenetically jumping from one idea to the next, hoping for an instant hit, without putting enough thought into anything