Evidence, not Validation

Giff Constable innovation, lean

The other day, I tweeted my discomfort with the words “validation” and “invalidation” when it comes to early stage products. They appeal to human psychology because we like clear, crisp, confident concepts. But the real work of applying lean in practice is much murkier.

When is something actually validated or invalidated? An adequate answer to the former might be product-market-fit, i.e. when the market is literally pulling product from your hands. It usually takes a lot of iteration to get to that point. The answer for “invalidation” is impossible to answer outside of context.

The more interesting word is evidence.

We are looking for evidence. And if we can’t find evidence to support our beliefs and our vision, we have to be willing to take action.

You have to hunt for evidence in smart ways. The old Henry Ford saw about a “faster horse” is true, but there was plenty of evidence that Ford could observe around real goals, real pain points, and real risks to his automobile concept. See my post on “the truth curve“.

This hunt, this search, often feels like a negotiation between the vision you hold as a product designer, and the data you are getting back from the marketplace. And it should translate into concrete action as you and the market take parallel shuffle steps on the way to realizing your vision.

It takes a lot of fortitude to resist the urge to just put your head down and build your dream, but it is usually the right thing to do even when your early signals are really strong.

Continuous learning is the goal. Continuous learning with continuous judgement.