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Designing New Products? Try Constraints!

What if you could create an information product (you know, like an eBook) in a single sitting? Crazy, isn’t it? But I just recently watched a webinar where the presenter explained how he did it. His rationale? Once he got up from the desk, he was likely to get distracted and that would immediately reduce (virtually to nil) his chances of publishing the product he’d been working on. Another person I listened to today mentioned that he spoke with a gal who had been working on her book for two years and still had another year or so to go before it would be done. His approach? The same – put in tight constraints and push the thing out!

My Own Experiment

I started embracing constraints almost two decades ago by chance. It was one of those crazy dynamics where we were 12 days away from a national computer convention and my boss wondered (out loud) if there was any chance we could have a working prototype of the product we’d been brainstorming by the show. Mind you, it wasn’t for production. We’d just demo it to whet their appetites. So we started asking ourselves what absolutely had to go into the prototype (we never called it a product), and what didn’t. We made that call in two days and spent the next ten building the baseline product.

Will it surprise you that my boss sold it to three customers for a total of $450,000? Seriously. He did! And it was because it looked complete enough to suggest it was a full-fledged product. He even booked my flight out to Chicago and then Raleigh so that I could install the “product” at their sites. Crazy! But true. And we generated that revenue in 10 days because we made tough decisions in tight time constraints.

So here’s the question.

What are you gaining by giving yourself so much time? Another way to put it – what are you losing because you’ve given yourself too much time? What if you decided that your next product would have to be done in the next 48 hours? What if you had to pull it off in 24 hours? What if you had no more than 2 hours? What would you do?

Sure, you’d not be able to write your incredible book that would beat every other book out there. But maybe you could create an eBook that would be interesting enough at $5 to sell a few copies. Would that be worth it? In the webinar I listened to, the author created a 7 page document that sold for $7. But over time he added to it and pushed the price up to $50. In the last month or two it was netting him thousands of dollars without any effort at all. Now, those aren’t the products I build, and most software takes a bit more than 2 hours. But the exercise is worth doing. You never know, you might be 10 days away from a half a million dollars and not know it.

What ideas are you letting simmer too long?

#newproducts #productdevelopment #startups

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