9.58 seconds. That’s how fast Usain Bolt ran 100 meters in 2009, earning him the title “The Fastest Man in the World.” While we’re guessing you won’t win gold in three straight Olympic games like Bolt did, you can win market gold for adopting a sprinter’s mindset in your product validation process.
No offense to Aesop, but slow and steady doesn’t win the product race. Creating market-defining products requires finding bright ideas quickly and frequently, and the only way to do it is to channel your inner-Usain Bolt.
Think about how a sprinter operates. They come flying out of the starting blocks, exerting as much energy as possible, and quickly realize whether or not they’re going to win. Your product validation should be no different. Once you’ve got a potentially great idea, put it to the test as quickly as possible. How? Take a page from our Rapid Product Validation playbook written by David Schell — skip over the lengthy discovery and debate cycle that most teams meander through and go straight to the prototyping and validation. In other words, place your idea in the starting blocks and learn almost immediately if people like it.
But what if you fail?
Most teams get stuck in the quagmire of failure. Forget sprinting; they’re so terrified to fail that they crawl towards answers with fingers and toes crossed. Guess what? That wastes a lot of time. When you sprint towards answers, you can remove bad ideas from your pipeline quickly and replace them with something better. Yes, technically that means the first idea failed, but wouldn’t you rather know that after a few weeks than a few months (or years!)? Most people won’t say this (but, hey, we’re not most people): speedy failures are actually a sign of success.
OK, now you see the value in sprinting but you’re still afraid to move so quickly. Your inner-Usain Bolt can eliminate that fear. Here’s how to adopt the same mindset:
1. Create a clear roadmap
Usain Bolt didn’t just wake up one day and say “I’m going to be the fastest man in the world.” Instead, he had a series of goals to get there: eat right and get plenty of rest, adopt a solid training plan, win international meets, aim for the Olympics, and start breaking world records. While his goals took years to achieve, yours will take a few weeks in the right sprint. In either event, you need to know what you’re working towards so you can build the roadmap to get there.
2. Prepare for the challenge
Just because Usain Bolt is fast doesn’t mean each race was easy. He is the first to admit that he had a tendency to start slowly. Instead of dwelling on it, though, he refused to let it get him down. All he could do was train harder to do better.
In your case, every validation sprint will come with twists and turns, so be mentally prepared to deal with them with confidence. Whatever you do, don’t dwell on your idea’s weaknesses or what could go wrong. Instead, focus on creating a cross-functional validation team, having the right collaboration tools (we’re looking at you, Figma), and researching what your target audience needs and wants. When the unexpected pops up, work your way through it coolly and calmly.
3. Aim for your flow state
Usain Bolt and many other elite athletes describe entering a flow state during competition where they’re so fully immersed in the task at hand that all thoughts of failure and distraction completely dissolve. A good product validation sprint is fun, collaborative, and exciting, and your flow state will be full of creative thinking and constructive activity. Sounds great, right? It might take a couple of sprints for you to get over the unfamiliar, but with the right process, you’ll hit that flow state. We promise.
Remember, even Usain Bolt lost a race every now and then. There will be product validation sprints where you feel like you lost because the prototype wasn’t well received. That’s not a result of poor planning or lack of resources; it’s the whole point of sprinting in the first place. Just like Usain Bolt always climbed back in the starting blocks next time, you need to as well. In those instances when you fail fast, jump back in with a different approach or new idea. It’s how you’ll end up creating market gold.
Discover how to sprint from idea to user-tested prototype in just three weeks with the action plan in our Rapid Product Validation workbook.