A process for capturing and validating ideas
In the Idea Pad, ideas are placed in 4 stages:
- Inbox: this is where I collect any new ideas that I come across. Each new idea creates a card with 8 questions I need to answer before I can move the card to any other stage. Capturing ideas also works with Notion’s Web Clipper. As a bonus, I get the link to the page I had the idea on for additional context.
Go Validate: If at the end of answering the 8 questions I think it’s an idea worth validating I move it here. If not it goes into the Dead category.
Validated: Ideas that went through my validation process, and I can start building them.
- Dead: Ideas that I discounted from the inbox or after an unsuccessful validation.
Evaluating the idea
Before I commit time to validate an idea, I want to asses if it's any good. I’ve borrowed and adapted a set of questions from Tyler Tringas and his meat grinder approach to startup ideas. Each question is there to make me think deeper on the idea and spot any weak points.
Describe the problem: what is my understanding of the problem people have?
Describe the solution: what is my solution to their problem?
Benefits to users: list out individual benefits people get from using my solution.
Is anyone paying to solve this problem today: check if there is a market for this problem. For instance, a lot of people are upset with ads on social networks. No one is however paying for an ads-free version of Facebook.
Possible monetization streams: what’s my hypothesis on how this could be monetized?
What to validate: based on all of the above, what are the questions that require a positive answer for me to proceed? For instance, do content creators need a dedicated tool for drafting blog posts?
How to validate: what is the cheapest, fastest way to validate the idea?
Is it sustainable: do the economics of this make sense? Can I scale this idea to a point where my time is being paid for?
Rating the idea
To get an initial understanding of how I feel about the idea, I rate it against 4 factors:
Usefulness: how useful I believe this will be to my users
Complexity: how hard is it to build this idea?
- Excitement: do I feel like dropping everything and starting working on this right now?
- Product/Founder fit: am I the right person for this idea, will I enjoy working on this a year from now?
This allows me to compare ideas against each other and prioritize the ones that are more useful, less complex, I’m more excited about and I generally feel they’re a better fit.
Note: As the idea progresses through the system, its rating will change, maybe I’ll realize something is more complex than I initially thought.
To better organize ideas, I’ve started tagging them. This allows me to reference an entire category of ideas, like ‘Tools for makers’ using Notions built-in filters. It’s great for pattern matching, especially when ideas start piling up.
You can come up with your own tagging system. I tend to explore specific trends and my tags are based on them. Here are some as inspiration:
- Tools for makers
- Fiverr unbundling
Every bit of research I do lives on the idea’s dedicated page. Competition research, tweets of frustrated people asking for a solution, and game plan to validate the idea. All this lives in one place and can be referenced in the future.