At Silicon Beach we empower early-stage founders to come up with crazy ideas that might seem a little bit out of the box in the first place, but have the potential to make a difference in the world.
We are able to get people onto the stage and talk about their ideas early on their startup journey- when no one else is giving them a chance yet because they feel that our founders are too raw, too unrefined. But there is nothing like being too early to share your ideas.
We're all about getting ideas out as soon as possible, getting feedback, learning, and improving. And that's how we believe ideas grow into world-changing products and services sooner rather than later. And one of our great inspirations to do what we're doing is Albert Einstein, one of the most creative minds who ever lived.
Einstein once said: "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."
And that's exactly what we are advertising and what we advocate. We need new thinking to solve those massive problems that our lifestyle on planet Earth has created over the last 100-plus years since the beginning of industrialisation.
And our tool of choice to talk about, educate and facilitate innovation is the design thinking process formalised in the 1960s at Stanford University in California. This process is used by many leading innovators and organisations worldwide, including Apple, Google, and IBM.
The design thinking process is a five-step process, and the second part of this process is all about doing things the right way and talking with startups, mentors, coaches, and corporates. If you have worked in a corporate environment processes and procedures are in place, and project management tools are available to help you do things the right way.
But startups and organisations that want to be innovative need to find out what are the right things to do. And that's where the design thinking process has its place. With the design thinking process, we start by empathising with our customers and our target audience, and learning from them what problems they have, what challenges keep them awake at night and what desires and ambitions they have for the future.
We do that in a very nonjudgmental way. We're listening a lot, and we are collecting the data. Only in the second stage of the design thinking process do we start analysing that data and condensing it down to what is the most urgent problem for those customers to be solved.
Unfortunately, people often take action and implement solutions for problems that do not have a market-problems that do not need to be solved urgently. This is challenging, especially for startups, because most startups have a short runway, are basically always seeking money, and have to create revenue, cash flow and value proposition early on. If they fail to do that, they might not have the money to try a second time.
And this is why it is crucial for startups to fail while failing is cheap and while they can reiterate quickly.
That's in the early stages of the product and service development journey before you start putting a lot of effort into designing and developing advanced MVP-style products.
In the first stage of the design thinking process, we create opportunities for finding valuable products, solutions, products and services by listening with empathy to what is causing pain and what is causing desires.
And then, in the second stage, we're reducing the complexity of the process by getting people to ideate and helping them to identify the solutions for just one single problem they can then take action on.
Talking about just one problem, one problem at a time, especially for startups with limited resources, is essential.
Apple is one of the most focused businesses out there when we look at how few products they have regarding the revenue they create. That's not by chance. That's by pure design. Steve Jobs once said: "I'm as proud of what we don't do as I am of what we do."
At Apple, they make conscious decisions about what problems need to be solved, focusing on just those problems and ignoring all the noise around them. That's a golden recipe for startup success.
When I look at the Silicon Beach Community, we see founders often fail because they're not focused enough on the problem, right? When you go out doing your product market fit validation, you're talking to people, and you learn while you explain your solution as a founder to your target customer. You learn what they like about your product, and what they don't like.
But you also learn about other problems that they have. And it is very easy to get distracted and say: "oh yes, I can solve this problem, too".
Or you talk to a different customer who is not quite your target customer but has a similar problem, and you say, "Oh, I can expand my product or service offering to this customer, too".
It is easy to get distracted!
Startup founders have limited resources. Early-stage startup founders have to keep focused. The more they focus on solving just one problem with a large enough market size, the more likely they will succeed.
Only after we have identified that problem do we start thinking about creative solutions to solve it. The most important thing about unleashing creativity for any team is curating a safe place for the team members.
Stressed people, pressured people, and scared people are not creative! Neither are teams that lack diversity.
We have to find the right mixture of people who are not too uncomfortable thinking outside of the box but are also not scared about voicing crazy ideas and putting them out there.
Guess who the most creative people are? Children! For young children seven years or younger, there is nothing they can't imagine and build in their heads.
Creating a playful atmosphere is very beneficial when we want a truly innovative, creative environment. By that, I do not necessarily mean that we have to have a room full of toys and games but that they have the mindset of "hey, this is fun!” Getting out of our chairs and running around in front of whiteboards bumping ideas off each other and bumping into each other can be fun.
When we're in this creative space, we must block out all things stopping us from being creative. Stuff like: "That won't work." "We've never done that before." There is no space for such thinking in the creative phase of problem-solving. People bringing that sort of mindset into the ideation space are inhibitors of creativity.
Even people who are straight away jumping to thinking about implementing a certain idea or solution are already distracting focus away from ideating.
Probably no one in the world understood the importance of focusing on creativity better than Walt Disney. Walt Disney split the product development process into three stages, and he went so far as to have individual rooms for each of three stages.
The first room was just for creative people, where no criticism and thought about how it could be made to happen was allowed. It was all about dreaming big. And ideas only left that room when they were so outrageous that no one else but Walt Disney would be crazy enough to give them a go.
Only then did he move the idea to the 2nd room where the implementation happened- here people worked on developing products, business plans, and marketing strategies.
When he was happy with the plans, he moved the project further into the 3rd room where the critics were located, where people tried to break the idea and see what could possibly go wrong. If they couldn't find anything that could go wrong, then Walt Disney had a product that he was happy to release.
If it didn't survive the critics, he returned to the creative dreamers to start over again.
That’s how we believe crazy can work!
By David Hauser
CEO Silicon Beach Australia