There are trees that drop needles that make it impossible for other plants around them to grow. The point isn’t to kill the flora, I’m just fascinated by the idea that we can create conditions that make it possible for things to thrive.
Products are no different.
A fundamental insight is a key piece of information that leads to a better solution to your customer’s most basic problems. And the key to a product’s success is how you leverage your environment to apply those insights (think Amazon). A company’s job then is to uncover fundamental insights so that it can develop the conditions necessary for its product to thrive in competitive markets.
“If you don’t control your environment, someone else will.” — Grant Cardone
I find the idea of “controlling your environment” fascinating. It’s nothing complex and on the surface it’s pretty easy to understand. But, the key to this idea lies not in comprehending its meaning but in applying it to the real world.
Suppose your new year’s resolution is to lose 45lbs. That’s called a goal. But a goal is merely a wish if there’s no system in place to carry it out. You can tell yourself that you’ll eat healthy and go to the gym 5 times a week but what happens if there’s no healthy food in your house and you don’t have workout clothes? You’re probably not going to follow through.
Controlling your environment is all about manipulating your environment to make it more favorable to action. If I lay out my clothes the night before and prepare my meals for the week on Sunday, the odds of meeting my goal are substantially greater.
This is called a system. They work if applied correctly. The problem with most companies is that they work in silos. Two departments can have high functioning systems and still have a disconnect, which can result in a bottle neck.
When Earth’s temperature shifted from hot and humid to cold and dry trees had to evolve to survive. Thanks to the pine needle, pine trees were able to adapt and thrive under new conditions. Not only are pine needles more conducive to photosynthesis, their acidity kills the plants around them, which means less competition for resources. When they fall to the ground, they pile up and soften the impact of rain, which prevents erosion and allows the tree to have a more solid foundation.
The Fractal Method is all about becoming hyper aware of the environment around you and creating conditions where your product can thrive.
First principle ideation:
‘First Principle Ideation’ is a method of inquiry that seeks to uncover novel solutions to existing problems by breaking them down to their most fundamental parts. The term comes from an ancient philosophy called “first principles.”
According to ancient philosophy, the term was coined almost 2,300 years ago by Greek Philosopher, Aristotle. He proposed that by understanding a subject's fundamental principles, those “things better known and clearer to us.”
First Principle is an important first step for evaluating systems — whether in philosophy, personal life, business.
Defining and deconstructing the problem:
Identifying a problem isn’t as easy as looking at something and saying, ‘it doesn’t work.’
A problem is a situation in which something important has happened but we don’t know why. Evaluation of the problem requires using the correct research methodology.
To truly identify a problem you must first define the clear set of issues (or symptoms) that led to the problem -- like decreased sales, loss of market share, and decreased web traffic.
Problems are a result of individual symptoms.
Situation analysis: 5 C’s approach
- Company (internal): strengths, weaknesses, goals, objectives, culture, resources including technology and skills.
- Customers: Market size, segment, purchasing habits, trends, buying process, overall customer satisfaction, perceived value by customers.
- Competitors: Current and prospective, strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, products and market share.
- Collaborators: suppliers, distributors, alliances and partners.
- Climate: Regulations and government oversight, social and cultural, business cycle, inflation and other economic factors, legal technology.
Questions to ask:
- What are the latent needs for your product?
- What needs hold the most weight?
- Who is your target?
- What are your differentiators?
First principle analysis:
- What do you want to accomplish?
- What is true?
- What should you do to achieve #1 in light of #2?
- Innovations, engineering, product, legal, sales, etc.
Outcome: potential solutions to the problem
- Map the hypotheses and weigh them against customer needs and strategic goals.
Research: testing your hypothesis
A problem is a situation in which something important happened but we don’t know why. Evaluation requires using the right research method. Some methods create their own set of problems so it’s your job to determine which one is best.
Identify the appropriate research methodology or mathematical models:
- Quantitative: Measure of how your audience behaves.
- Qualitative: Measure of what your audience wants.
- Methods: Surveys, interviews, ethnography, focus groups, narrative interviews, usability tests, beta testing, dynamic testing, MaxDiff Analysis, perceptual maps, case studies.
- Presenting: Once you’ve researched and tested your potential solutions, you’ll want to prioritize them according to your goals before presenting to leadership.
- Outcomes: Research report and slide deck.
Planning and execution
This stage happens after your proposal has been green lit. It’s your job to map the project specifications including deliverables, dates, subject matter experts and stakeholders.
Product launch plans:
- Deliverables: what needs to be built?
- Deadlines: when do they have to be built by?
- Stakeholders: who will be involved?
- KPIs: how will you measure progress
Internal communications plan:
The purpose of the internal comms plan is to keep the team apprised of project progress. This is key to keep managers from breathing down your back. It also keeps you accountable and on time.
- Progress reports, status dashboards, one on one meetings, scrum.
Messaging and positioning: the hero's journey
The hero’s journey is a concept that was made famous by George Lucas’s Star Wars Trilogy. It’s a fundamental storytelling framework which nearly all myths, books, and movies share, from Homer’s Odyssey to The Lion King.
The Hero’s journey works because it possesses the fundamental elements that human beings can’t help but like. It’s a suspenseful feel-good story.
Ideally, your company’s journey begins with its high level mission, vision, and values. And like a fractal, your journey should scale down from the individual business units down to individual products.
- Messaging Matrix
- Customer Journey Matrix
- Buyer Personas
- Launch events for OEM's and partners, trade shows & conferences, speakerships.
- One sheeter, brochure, messaging doc, spec sheets, educational trainings, battle cards, sales decks.
- Press release, earned media, exclusive interviews, tv interviews, press conferences.
Marketing and demand generation:
- Promo video, website updates, landing pages, emails, blogs, paid, social, automation, co-marketing opportunities.
- Quick start guide, training manual, operations manual, training videos, one-sheeters, FAQs.
Post launch framework:
- Blog (Education) → Podcast (Conversation) → Webinar (Sales)
Post Launch Deliverables:
- Testimonials, use cases, case studies.
Feedback: power law
The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule or Power Law, states that roughly 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. Or, 20% of your activities will lead to 80% of your results.
SaaS pricing strategies adopt this principle through tiered pricing plans. Because startups are limited in resources, they can’t help everyone all the time. With pricing tiers, those who pay the most money get better support because it makes more sense to keep them happy. Losing 8 customers who account for 20% of your revenue is better than losing 2 customers who generate 80% of your revenue.
Power Law principle can be applied to sales and customer service programs such as VOC. Ways it can be applied include:
- Qualitative and quantitative research samples → better data.
- Building buyer personas based off of 20% of your most profitable customers.