What is a thesis-driven approach to innovation?

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Things are complicated now.

They also don’t stand still – the pace of change around us increases all the time.

One of the casualties of the times is our ability to know everything.

A few hundred years ago, all the useful information in the world could be contained in a decent sized personal library.

Now that’s no longer the case – we can hardly ever be certain that we know something – there are always complexities, nuances and new theories and evidence coming along that may cause us to reset our world view.

How can we make decisions – about investments, new products, lines of business – in such an environment?

We hear a lot about thesis-driven approaches these days.

What does that mean?

A thesis is an assertion – an argumentative one – that describes the conclusions we have reached about a particular subject.

It is a belief based on supporting evidence within a context. We must answer the question what do we believe and why do we believe it?

How can that help us develop a product?

A product here is a catch-all term for an innovative project that results in something that can be sold – whether it’s a new line of business or a new business altogether.

We start with a belief that there is a need for that product.

Then, traditional approaches might suggest starting with a business plan or a business model but what about those of us in an earlier, more experimental stage?

A framework for testing a thesis might help – as shown in the picture.

Testing a thesis starts with thinking about goals. What will success look like for this idea?

How many potential users are out there? What is the minimum we need for a viable line of business?

How can we get feedback? The number of sales is clearly a vital metric.

Ideally, we’d have a clear run in a market that needs the product where we have no competitors – but if there is competition we need to look at the growth in our market share.

Then there are the people we need to work with. This includes individuals we need to deliver the product and those that will buy it and that we will continue to work with in the future.

Who are they, where are they and how can we start the process of talking to them?

Finally there are the resources we need – the things and stuff that is required to deliver the product, whether its a factory somewhere or a laptop and mobile phone to get going.

These days we can’t be sure of things.

But we can try and test our beliefs.

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