There is a mantra that has taken hold in the Lean Start-Up movement that is near and dear to our hearts. The notion—commonly phrased as “Getting Out of the Building”—is an admonition to entrepreneurs, product developers and engineering teams to step outside of the confines of their offices and interact with customers directly.

We couldn’t agree more.

The challenge, however, is doing so economically, efficiently—and most importantly, effectively. While the temptation—particularly in start-up mode—is to search broadly for ideas wherever they might lie, the reality is this is the last thing you really need.
It is almost always better to aim for starting small. To find your way to that first beachhead—those early successes with small audience segments that can become the catalyst for bigger successes.

It’s not only that you can’t afford to invite input from everyone. You actually don’t want to. To cast your research net too broadly while you are defining your product or your business is to invite confusion, opacity, lowest common denominator thinking—or all of the above.

It’s more important to interact with those customers—and partners—who are equipped to provide you the most usable feedback, pointing you in a clear and meaningful direction, rather than creating more divergence. The decision to continue, evolve or pivot becomes vastly improved when it is informed by input from the right people.

An added benefit is that your research can be conducted in smaller increments. Five carefully-chosen interviews can have more influence on your product than a vast survey of thousands of prospective customers. A few selectively-measured data points—gathered rapidly and available when you need them—can propel key resource and investment decisions.

It’s not enough just to get out of the building. Make sure you know why you’ve left and who to meet when you are out there. And don’t forget how to find your way back.

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