For a long time now I’ve been trying to learn something new by putting it in front of people and asking for their input. It’s the startup founder motto that seems to become commonplace all the time, and when you apply it to learning something new and trying to get others’ help to succeed, it could turn into something pretty big and potentially better.
For example, rather than trying to build a team, build a product or refine a service. Instead, let me learn the product through a series of “open calls” where I meet with a few people, go over some of the basics of what you’re building and then ask them for their comments. For instance, what version of the product does it work best on, why are people using it and how can we improve it? Open calls or “try it out” as this approach is called–can take years to fully implement, but in the end they end up yielding some really valuable feedback.
Another example: rather than trying to figure out new products or services, rather than hiring and motivating developers, let me apply the “try it out” approach to testing them. So much of building a product or service involves experience and iteration. And when we deploy a new product or service, we often don’t know if it’s going to work until we deploy it to a larger group. This can take months of testing and learning, much of which never sees the light of day as we move on to new things.
But let’s apply open calls to testing with groups of folks. By adding a brief summary of your proposed offering on your website, and asking for customers to comment or try it out for themselves, it can yield the insights you need to hone in on where your new offering works or needs some tweaks.
It also gives you the ability to quickly tune it if what you’re starting with is getting out of whack. A dirty little secret in early product development is that most people do not like the new thing or want to improve it much. But the more people try the thing, the more likely they are to be open to changing it.
Done right, open calls can produce meaningful insights that lead to improved products. Do they really work well for you? Look up other startups that have successfully tried this approach, and learn from their success as much as your failure.