How many times have you heard a person saying that their ultimate goal is to “make world a better place”? Let me guess — 4 out of 5 founders in the Valley agree they want to make the world a better place. Sometime even the toothpaste ad makes more sense than this making world a better place platitude, right?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making this world a better place — but what lies behind entrepreneurs’ bias within this approach is mere failure. Sure, there is always a compelling story to tell, but the question is — who finds it compelling?
As an entrepreneur, you’ll be tempted to start a business around a story you find compelling. It all sounds so nice on paper, and you don’t see how your business could possibly fail with such a noble goal and such delicate means. I’ve seen this so many times. The next chapter of the story is enthusiastic investment of time and resources into the void. Once the investors’ money is spent, it’s all shut down.
As is often in life, reality is different from a neatly printed plan in business as well. What you are soon to find out is that your idea is not innovative, attention-capturing, nor world-changing after all. As dream breaking as it can sound — that is the harsh reality, unless you choose to take the rougher path.
Do not be blinded by your own idea. To know if others will find it compelling, you must test every aspect of it. Develop your target audience profile, and gather focus groups. Don’t be afraid to hear the users respond, even if they respond negatively. Instead of denying it, you can find a workaround in the early stages, before manufacturing products that will not satisfy the buyers.
Many entrepreneurs deny the feedback of focus groups, saying they don’t understand how it works, or that they just saw this as a gig to be done. Reality check: those are the people who are supposed to buy your product, enjoy it, and come back for more. How do you expect them to do so if they don’t understand how it works? What if you’ve spent too much time building your product that it seems perfectly easy, logical and useful — while it is too complex to those who just want the product, not all the logic and brainstorming behind it? After all, if they really enjoy what they’ve been given to try out, they won’t be bored, thinking how they ‘can’t wait to get this job done’. They will enjoy it instead.
In order to succeed, you must continuously, carefully listen to your audience. That doesn’t mean you should add every single feature suggested to please everyone. It is important to be familiar with market trends and rely on good data, user feedback, and then your own judgement and vision. It is only when you include all the aspects that you judge objectively and gain traction.
The point is not to give up on your “compelling story” or the intention to make this world a better place. It is to understand that not everyone will find it compelling from the same perspective as you do, and to seize the different aspects of your idea that are compelling and meaningful to others.
The secret lying behind this lesson is that you can only change the world if your desire to make it a better place for others is greater than your ego and its need to execute its brilliance. You are the brilliant one, innovating for the better world’s sake — so be brilliant enough to listen and respond to those who’ll live in it.