Superhuman Powers = Gauranteed Customers. December 2011

How to skip the lean startup methodology…

So you know that whole lean-startup thing that everyone makes such a big deal of? Well, it’s pretty great. Actually, most people would say it’s so great that you’d be a fool not to follow the lean startup methodology – and pretty much all the major tech accelerators swear by it.

I concur with the greatness of it. But I also make the argument that it’s not always necessary; in fact, there is a little shortcut. So what is the secret? Let me enlighten you:

The lean startup methodology is based on the idea that you’ll make hypotheses - measurable assumptions about your target audience - and that you can iterate through these assumptions quickly to develop a product that meets market demand. This methodology makes the assumption that you don’t specifically know what the market demand is – and I agree, nobody knows exactly what there is demand for – but there are a lot of people that have a pretty freaking good idea.

The trick is to become a perfectionist-supergeek-technologist-futurist-scifi-visionary. Yeah, just like Steve Jobs and George Lucas were. You have to know where society is going. You have to know what people intuitively want, even when they don’t know they want it. You need to solve a problem for people whether they are aware that they have the problem or not.

If you can do that, then you can skip the lean startup process and skip directly to executing your vision. Take flying cars for example: we might not realize we want flying cars, but geez, do you really not want a flying car? Of course you want one. The only thing standing between this scifi vision and actual flying cars is the execution of the idea. There is no need to find out if people want flying cars – just imagine the look you’d get if you asked your girlfriend if she wants a flying car… no shit she wants one! – it’s inherent in our nature as humans to intuitively desire certain technologies. We all want to fly. We all want sex. We all want to be invisible. We all want to know everything. We all want to be able to teleport. We all want to by psychic. To read thoughts. To be superhuman. To be the most attractive guy or girl in the world. To have infinite knowledge and wisdom. To be immortal. If you can give people even the slightest piece of one of these superhuman abilities, you’ll be wildly successful and your product will sell itself.

I would argue that the reason Apple was so successful was that it gave people these superhuman powers – and delivered them in a sexy way. Jobs knew people wanted computers before computers were popular. His company knew people wanted a music player that was sleek and had a good UI. They knew people wanted an MP3 player that could hold their entire library. They knew people wanted laptops that didn’t fall apart. They knew people wanted an OS that didn’t implode with bugs and viruses. They knew people wanted a phone with a built-in GPS, camera, music player, accelerometer, and the ability to run flawless apps. They knew people wanted to sit and read on a nice, pretty, backlit screen without a keyboard. They knew all of this not by sending out survey after survey, not by sending out products far before they were ready, but by understanding human nature.

You see, they understood what it means to be a human. They knew people liked intuitive user experiences. Their competitors might have had a vague idea of what the future beheld, but their competitors failed to give their customers what they wanted, because their crappier products were too hard for their customers to figure out. Inventing flying cars is great – but if your customer can’t figure out how to fly it, then you haven’t actually given your customers the ability to fly yet!

This can be extended to anything – not just flying cars. If you study an industry and have a decent intuition of what being a human being is all about, you can create the future without having to validate your assumptions. Of course – the minute details should be validated, but that’s not quite the same as validating your overreaching premise.

So the point is: study human nature, study technology, become a scifi fanatic. Understand the market and where things are going. Develop this big-picture vision of the world and understand what part of the future you’re going to create. Then go create it.