Brainstorm a Solution
Ellen Su, Chief Product Officer of Wellinks, a digitally enabled virtual care management solution for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), explained the brainstorming process her team took. Her team devised over a hundred ideas to figure out how to best aid people living with chronic respiratory disease. They wrote ideas on sticky notes and placed them on a board. Collaboratively, the team assessed the ideas one-by-one until they were finally left with a single solution.
Below, we have briefly outlined a non-exhaustive list of other brainstorming strategies that may help you get started:
Mind mapping: Mind mapping, either via your favorite mind mapping software, such as MindMaster, Miro, Whimsical, Mural, or Google Jamboard, or on paper, can be used to organize your thoughts. Start with your question or the problem you hope to address and draw lines branching out as you come up with additional, related thoughts. These thoughts may lead you to an interesting solution.
What if?: Ask yourself or your team “what if” questions (i.e. what if it was possible to do X?). Explore many solutions. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your solutions, refining your thinking along the way.
Idea funnel: Visually, this will look like an upside-down triangle. Start with a general solution to the problem you have identified. As you work your way down the funnel, narrow the scope by adding additional details to boil your solution down into something specific and tangible.
It will be useful to consider a variety of solutions to a problem initially, but you must determine what solution is most feasible based on your own expertise, the amount of time you can devote, the type of talent you can attract, and so forth. Further evaluate these solutions on the basis of a key criteria:
Desirability: Is this solution wanted and needed? Which stakeholders care the most? Will this add value? Do I personally want to build/work on this?
Viability: Is the opportunity big enough to attract venture investment? Alternatively, can the solution run lean enough to build a sustaining business?
Feasibility: Is this technically feasible? Is this something that can be built or created? Can you and your team create it or build it on your own?
TURNING YOUR SOLUTION INTO A BUSINESS
With a question and potential solution in hand, it is now time to leverage strategic frameworks that will enable you to quickly and easily reframe your solution into a business.
Specifically, the Business Model Canvas comprised of nine boxes, allows you to visualize the core elements of your business. The canvas is segregated by focus on external and internal factors: the right side focuses on the customer whereas the left side focuses on the business. Here, we will briefly outline the nine constituents, but in the subsequent posts, we will spend a lot of time diving into how to define and evaluate the relationship between your solution (i.e. your product or service), Customer Segments (i.e. who your product or service is for), Value Proposition (i.e., why the customer cares about your product or service), and the relationship between the two (i.e. otherwise known as Product/Market Fit). These are the most important parts of the model at this stage of venture creation.
Value Proposition: What product or service are you building? Who is it for? The fundamental purpose of your business is to solve a customer’s problem or need.
Customer Segments: Who are your customers? What personas do these entities embody? What value is there in using your product or service?
Channels: These are distribution channels. How does your product get to your customers? B2B? B2C?
Customer Relationships: How do you acquire customers, keep them, and grow them?
Revenue Streams: How does your product or service generate revenue from the different customer segment?
Key Resources: What assets do you need to make the business model work?
Key Partners: Who can your business work with? What key resources or assets can your company acquire or leverage from these potential partners?
Key Activities: What must your company do to function? Are you producing a physical product? Are you delivering some sort of problem-solving service (i.e. consulting)?
Costs: What are the operating costs and expenses?
For more detailed information, we recommend reading Steve Blank’s The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company, Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup, and Alexander Osterwalder’s handbook, Business Model Generation.