You can execute a Blueprinting project with a product concept in mind. However, you must keep the idea from biasing your results.
Yes, you can do a Blueprinting project even if you have a product concept in mind. In fact, this scenario is quite common. However, there are some guidelines to follow to ensure that your project will be successful.
Let's explore ten best practices for executing a Blueprinting project when a new product concept idea is in play.
1. Resolve to pursue the truth, no matter what
The goal of the Blueprinting project should never be to "validate an idea." That makes it sound like if your concept doesn't solve a problem that customers care about, the team has failed somehow.
Begin with the mentality that you will not cosign a check that your concept cannot cash. You will not forget the concept entirely, as it will influence how the project is executed. However, define success as obtaining true and accurate market insights. Do not define success as getting approval from customers for the concept.
After an interview, don't feel down if you're not hearing what you'd hoped. And don't celebrate if it seems that your concept will address something meaningful. Those emotions are not useful at this time. You are searching for the truth, period. Success equals discovering the truth, and you can celebrate that!
2. Adopt an innovation timeframe beyond the new concept
Blueprinting projects, by and large, shouldn't be canceled because of the viability of the new concept. You are studying the market and will uncover opportunities within. Based on what you learn, you might develop product strategies, marketing strategies, or even sales strategies independent of your new idea.
You are searching for opportunities within a market. And if they exist, you'll find them.
It's like digging for treasure. When you select the project's scope, you target an area to dig. "Success" for the Blueprinting project isn't finding treasure; it's determining if the treasure is there.
3. Select a scope that's consistent with your concept's value proposition
Your concept should influence the project's scope. Since outcome statements exist at different levels, you must ensure that the level of your outcome statements will match the value proposition of your product.
Imagine that you've developed a fabric for backpacking tents. The advantage of your concept is that it packs down smaller than competitive fabrics. The desired outcome would be to "Minimize the packed volume of the tent." In this case, you need a scope that could possibly reveal this outcome.
A good choice would be a product-based scope around "backpacking tent fabrics." In this case, your Discovery Interview questions would be around the theme of, "What challenges do you have with your backpacking tent fabrics?"
It would be appropriate to respond, "They don't pack down small enough." Therefore, we're at the right level.
Imagine if you left out the backpacking context. It's unlikely that the outcome could come up. Or, imagine if you scoped the project around "Manufacturing tents from fabrics." Your scope is not in sync with the value proposition because packing size is unlikely to be relevant to manufacturing.Scope selection can be a complex topic. Please consider referencing the following resources for more about selecting your project's scope:
4. Consider using a moderator and notetaker who are not invested in the concept
It isn't easy to remain neutral as a moderator or notetaker if you have a product concept in mind. While it may not be possible, consider borrowing a fellow Blueprinting practitioner from your company to help out and moderate or take notes.
Why is this difficult?
Because of three mental fallacies: confirmation bias, escalation of commitment, and sunk cost.
5. Be aware of three mental fallacies: confirmation bias, escalation of commitment, and sunk cost
Confirmation bias causes us to hear what we want and not properly digest conflicting data. When testing concepts, we want to hear that our concept is fantastic, and naturally, we ignore red flags.
Escalation of commitment is the phenomenon that occurs when people (or companies) invest time in a project. As they do so, they become progressively more committed simply because they've invested time working on the idea. The project becomes a tanker ship, impossible to stop or turn in another direction, a victim of its momentum.
The sunk cost fallacy is an economic concept in which resources that have been already spent nefariously appeal to us to impact future decisions. Of course, these resources are gone regardless of what we do, and therefore, should not influence a current decision. Easier said than done! In practice, if an idea is abandoned, many will feel that previous investments were wasted. The fallacy is difficult to overcome even if intellectually understood, especially when people feel their careers are threatened by advocating to stop an initiative.
6. Be extra careful about revealing your feelings about an answer
Watch your body language! Listen to your voice!
You must remain neutral and not let the customer think there are some right or wrong answers. Embrace a mentality that you'd love to hear conflicting information different from what you originally believed.
As a moderator, you can always pause and take a break. Use good listening skills, repeating the customer's words back to them.
As a notetaker, focus on capturing verbatims even more than normal. By summarizing, you may accidentally tilt the recorded answers to something more consistent with the concept's value proposition.
7. Ask any specific questions at the end of the Discovery Interview
You will likely have some specific questions that you want to ask your customer... especially those close to your hypotheses around your product's value proposition.
Perhaps you were concerned that you couldn't ask these? Actually, you can!
Just ask them at the end, after you already have your data. Be careful, of course, not to reveal your concept if it was supposed to stay secret for competitive intelligence reasons.
8. Include outcomes that the concept addresses within Preference Research, even if not mentioned in Discovery Interviews
You will force the outcome statements that your concept addresses into Preference Research. Using our backpacking tent fabric example, you will include "Minimize the packed volume of the tent," even if not heard during Discovery Interviews. Of course, they likely will bring it up at some point.
This way, you can see how this outcome stacks up to the others. Is it the #1 outcome? The #10 outcome? You're finally seeing your value proposition in the same light as your customers do.
9. Do not skip Preference Research
Don't do it!
You'll need to make product concept decisions later. You might need to double down on the concept - adding resources that can either make it perform even better against the value proposition... or you may see some other outcomes to address as well.
And, if it turns out that your value proposition isn't valued, you will have to make a case to your management to alter or even stop the project. And you'll want data for that conversation.
10. Be bold with leadership and tell the truth
Don't take anything personally and be bold with leadership. It's complicated, of course, because, in fact, they may not want the truth. They may just want to be told that the concept is fantastic.
Of course, be tactful and professional, but avoid giving in to the tendency to tell folks what they want to hear. It may seem helpful, but it helps nobody to launch a new product failure. If that happens, do you want your name on the research stating how much customers loved it? No.
Your job is to provide the data along with your interpretation of it. In Best Practice #1, we resolved to seek the truth. In Best Practice #10, let's resolve to tell it.
Finally, check out this 2-minute video from the B2B Organic Growth video series. It explains how to "test your hypotheses silently." In other words, you should never "lead" with your own solutions, hypotheses or ideas in interviews. But that doesn't mean you can't get great feedback on them by listening for outcomes.