Lean Fridays: Business idea validation done at scale

 

Business Idea Validation Lightbulb

This is the second time that I have been through the process of writing a story of how I think that the company I work for should evolve over the next 18 months. I previously wrote about how I thought this would work out for Metro and it is amazing how much of that has actually happened. This story was written at a DMGT level with a focus on how we solve the innovation challenges that a corporation of this size faces. My main premise is that we already have a lot of good ideas being generated but we are not so good at knowing which ones to invest time and money into. Business idea validation usually seems to take a back seat to idea generation but I think that this is the wrong way of looking things. These opinions and ideas are purely mine and don’t reflect the views of anyone at Metro or DMGT. It will be interesting to see how this story plays out over the next 18 months as I have a lot less influence at this level than I did with Metro’s. I have really come to respect story telling as a very powerful way to drive business change, Steve Denning explains this very well in the article “The science behind story telling“. The setting for the below is an induction day for a set of new recruits, the below is only my part of the story of which there were six parts.

My story to come

As you have just heard A+ Media’s digital revenue has recently surpassed their newspaper revenue. This rapid evolution was largely driven by a change in organisational thinking. The focus moved from opinion based decision making to a factual based iterative approach. This increased the speed of innovation and decreased the costs and risks of trying new things.

The process was a disruptive one to the wider business but it was recognised that it was better to disrupt ourselves than be disrupted. Management started by setting goals that focused on digital revenue across the whole of A+ Media. They then used a data driven model to validate a large number of ideas around new digital revenue opportunities.

For each revenue opportunity they formed a customer based hypothesis that they used their considerable client contacts and existing audience to quickly validate. Next decisions were then based on this real world feedback. A+ Media have used this way thinking to foster a culture of constant innovation from iterative learning. The knowledge that data will win any argument over ego was a critical factor in mobilising the whole of A+ Media behind their digital goals.

So I guess you are thinking what does this have to do with me on your induction day? Well you will be taught these techniques and they will help you to shape both the future of A+ Media and each of your respective organisations. This process is called Lean Friday’s and there is a dedicated team who organise and facilitate these. They will be in contact soon, as each of you will be involved in at least one of these sessions a quarter.

Lean Fridays are our idea validation process where we take a cross functional group of people and get them to validate our ideas around digital revenue opportunities. In a competition at the end of every month validated ideas are chosen for further data driven development. The team that validated the idea is also given the opportunity to continue to be involved.

Idea generation and selection is taken care of by a market based approach. Every employee is given the ability to submit an idea in Salesforce for consideration. They are also given a set amount of A+ currency to invest in ideas that they think will provide the most amount of value. Ideas are ranked in Salesforce based on the amount of investment in them. When a successfully validated idea is turned into revenue then a small percentage of profit is given back to both the initial creator and investors of the idea. They are also given additional A+ currency to invest again. An example of this was:

“Stephan Fowler a developer from Metro who came up with the idea to create a marketplace for commercial content creation. Internal knowledge and testing validated how to structure this so editorial would be correctly incentivised and clients validated how much and what they would be willing to pay in trail runs. We then quickly developed an internal prototype using open source software. Over time this was refined and then finally released into the wider marketplace. It has since created over £10 million of profit and Stephan received £10,000 for this.”

Highly visible examples like this have ensured that everyone is interested in the generation and validation of ideas and put constant innovation at the heart of our culture. Good luck with your ideas and investments if you would like to know any more about the process please don’t hesitate to ask.

Conclusion

Waste is a huge problem for large modern organisations, usually business models are optimised over time to reduce that waste. I believe that by ensuring the right validation of ideas we can reduce the waste that occurs at the earliest stages of new business model generation. Lean Friday’s would be an approach that I believe that would work to do business idea validation at scale. I also believe that they would solve one of the other problems that large organisations have which is communication. By bringing a group of people together around a common problem you can quickly learn how other parts of a large business work and gain some insight and knowledge which is very valuable. Technical companies have hack days for this very reason and people like Facebook and Atlassian are already harnessing these approaches to massive business benefit.

Music to Read this Post to

Claude Von-Stroke showing a different side on this Ibiza mix which is more 9am by the pool than 3am in the club.

Claude VonStroke ‘3 Days lost in Ibiza’ – Recorded for We Love by We Love Space on Mixcloud

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