Ep 01

Learning Loop - A Framework for Innovating New Products

Learn how you can use a learning loop to see the big picture and make better decisions when innovating new products. Listen in as Ryan Hatch, Head of Product Strategy, and Robert Kaminski, Product Strategist, discuss their approach to validating product innovation ideas for businesses.

Presented by
Ryan Hatch
Head of Product Strategy & Innovation
Robert Kaminski
Senior Product Strategist
Ryan & Robert
Product Strategists at Headway
Ryan & Robert
Product Strategists at Headway
Andrew Verboncouer
Partner & CEO

Robert Kaminski: Really, what we're diving into today is a series we're putting on called Exploring Product. And this is something that Ryan and I will be, we'll be running. We hope to do these throughout the year. Little bit of mixed model. We hope to get some folks in here, different entrepreneurs, CEOs, folks who are working in the, product and strategy space, especially to get to the reality that is product work, which we know is this really big surface area from idea generation to prototyping, to testing, to research and everything included.

And we want to be able to shed some light on the reality of that work. Not only to, help each other. But to build and, learn from each other as we go. And as, Jacob hit on, we don't want this to be a presentation. We do have some light content that we're going to share in terms of the model, but we want this to be almost like an office hours, real laid back as you can tell - the music sets the tone. But we want to get into the nitty-gritty - and even with the work that Ryan and I do day in, day out with different entrepreneurs and innovation groups - it's messy. It's never really clear. And we want to shed some light on that and be able to talk through the nuances.

And so again, glad to be here and want to introduce Ryan, my colleague, our Head of Product here at at Headway. Ryan, you want to introduce yourself and get your two cents on Exploring Product? I'm excited. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. Hey, thanks everyone for joining. Appreciate you taking time out of your day. Ryan Hatch.

Yeah, we're excited for exploring product because there's, such a what Robert and I talk about, there's such a big surface area in, product, in launching a new company and launching a new venture. And it's hard and no one has it figured out, and we don't want to, we don't want to pretend that other people or us even have, it all figured out. 

But we're we're wanting to get real with you and be authentic about - Hey, here's what we do. Here's how we approach it. And we're going to be having other people on as well and bringing other guests on the show to get different perspectives on, Hey, how they're doing it. And this is meant to be a conversation. So Robert and I are just be going through some. light content and then riffing together.

And you're going to be probably hearing us interrupting each other and "Well, that's not what I thought/said..." And we're going to have a dialogue and it's going to be great.And we welcome you to join the conversation as well as we explore product together. 

Robert Kaminski: Good stuff. Thanks Ryan. And so if you don't know Headway, a little bit about us, we work with entrepreneurs and corporate innovation groups to bring new business to market and keep them there.

And so we really are covering the spectrum of not only who we work with, but the different industries and spaces where we go and build strategies and execute and build and prototype. And that's what we want to share. We are consistently putting out different content to our audience. And be sure to check us out, subscribe to our channels, reach out to us on social media. We're extremely active in that space and we want to continue to do that, especially into this year. 

And so again, the light content but we want to get into our mindsets and how we think about things. And so I want to kick off for something that I know I'm really passionate about, and I know Ryan is as well - first principles in building new products, new businesses. And, these are things that...it frustrates me that they don't get enough light in execution.

And so I want to walk you through two key things before we share our kind of thinking model for how we start to unpack some of this stuff. And so the first one is. It's going to seem trivial, but Humans are at the epicenter. No one talks about it, but businesses and products don't exist in a vacuum. They're, here to serve us as, very irrational and emotional animals out there in the way we make decisions.

And the further away we get from this epicenter and how we make decisions of what we build and why we build it, the more difficult it is to be successful and execute and build sustainable businesses. And so a couple of key things here, and you're going to have me...I'm going to be pulling us back into the human side, especially when we get into strategy often through the series, humans are - maybe irrational is too aggressive, but it gets the point across - we're not always built by, logic based decisions. We're complex animals where emotions apply in our buying behavior, in our activities. And Ryan and I talk about this in every project and nearly every call because it's just so, important.  

And tied into this ...it's open-ended, because even if we are to get some sense of understanding of how people are making decisions, It's usually more complex than that - even for what we uncover. Because everything's intertwined and connected at the human level. And so that's a big piece for us that we think about early and often as we go through building new products. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. And on the businessiness side, it's funny because Robert and I talked about the goal of businesses is to make things repeatable and a hundred percent bulletproof.

And the interesting thing about predicting the future is if it's all based on, you can build a system, but you have to build it around this, shaky foundation of humans. And humans, if you ask someone why they do something, they don't really know why. They rationalize the why. 

And we have to understand that, we're really trying to figure out humans here. And there's different types of problems in the world. And we'll, probably do a session just on this sometime and the type of problems that we're solving in product, they're not math equations. We're trying to understand people and build things around people and people do...people have habits. They, don't do necessarily the things that benefit them most. There's a whole lot more to talk about, but I love the point.

Robert Kaminski: This fires me up too, because it gets me into my next piece here of, there's no roadmap. There is no step-by-step process for bringing new products to market. There's, good, like perhaps mental models and we have one we want to share, but they're imperfect and it's really meant to uncover in times where it's uncertain. What gets me fired up here, and anyone who's ever been on a product team or a new business venture team, especially in large organizations, they think it's an execution kind of concept of...If we do these 10 things in order, and we hit all our milestones, like we'll be successful.

We're here to tell you it doesn't work like that in the wild. That works really well for things that already work. And so if you've ever worked for a large company where it is efficiency, it's processes. Yeah, that's great...if you've already done the hard work of getting a new product or thing in the hands of the customer and you have them paying for it.

And so the work's just different. And this is where I think corporate world and startups collide. It's why startups are winning because they don't care about efficiencies. They care about effectiveness. And can we go zero to one? And so I I get fired up. You can tell in my emotions, I've worked across the spectrum.

I've worked for the big conglomerate. Oracle is an experience I had all the way down to startups raising. And so seeing that between this really gets me fired up. There is no roadmap. I don't know if this triggers anything for you, Ryan, in this space here. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah, and all the time, people are going to ask, What's the plan? And they want a Gantt chart. This is That's not reality, people, for innovation. That's execution world. And innovation is a different space. It's not execution. It's search, it's exploration, right? 

Robert Kaminski: Yep. A hundred percent. And this kind of lays the foundation to some degree of exploring product as...these first principles, these are things we're constantly going to be pulling back, but it's a decent segue into how we think about it. 

And so what we're calling it is the learning loop, this is a mental model that Ryan and I talk through early and often as we go through projects, we want to share with you today. And like we said, parts of it are...this whole work is ambiguous. And so we're going to talk through kind of pitfalls where people get stuck, where teams get it right and wrong as we go through. But Ryan, why don't you please take us through the high level of this thing and then we'll open it up and get into the weeds here. 

Ryan Hatch: Sure. Yeah. So when we think about products and taking something to market and innovation there's a lot of stuff out there that will tell you here's the right way to do it.

And here's the right way to do it. And you'll get buzzwords all over the place everywhere. There's buzzwords all over. And it's like, how do you make sense of all that? There's design thinking, there's lean startup or jobs to be done. There's a lot more stuff as well. 

And, what we've tried to do is think about, okay. If we zoom out, what's the model that we're really using in our heads that we're applying innately because we're in this space, we're doing all the time. If we externalize that what's that model we're actually stepping through and we feel this is it. And I feel pretty confident about this.

I don't really think this is gonna change. I think this is pretty solid but, there again there's, not one right mental model. There's a lot of different mental models and you need them all. And we're just offering this as another one. It's something that we're using all the time when I'm looking at a problem.

When we're looking at a problem, I'm always thinking in my head, where am I right now in this diagram? And if I don't have the right pieces on this diagram, then I know I can follow that model to bring me to the right place to help me ask the right questions that'll put us in the right spot. 

Robert Kaminski: All right. So take us through that. Take us through these steps here, introduce these concepts, and then we'll hash through. 

Ryan Hatch: So the first one, vision. It always has to start with the why. We love making prototypes. We love being in solutions. We get excited about ideas, but if we don't pause and back up and say, why? What do we really...what are we really trying to do here?

And so many times this isn't talked about, this isn't defined and I've seen where it causes a lot of problems down the road. If you're not, if you're not locked into, to why you're doing what you're doing, it it can really hurt you. And there's several examples of this. Do you want to be in, whether it's sitting down with a client or, a startup or, a corporate all of, those conversations, you have to bring it back and say, Hey, do you want to be... Do you want to make this a lifestyle business? You and two, three other, five other people. Do you want this to be a 5 or $10 million business? Do you want this to be a $500 million business? And those, are all super different. And based on that vision of where you're trying to go and why that completely changes the actions you take completely changes the decision matrix we would use to go with this direction versus that direction, right?

Robert Kaminski: You know what this makes me think of Ryan is really the element of constraints. And, what you talk about of, what do I want to be? Who do I want to serve? It's the first constraint and anyone who's ever gone through any creative process knows that when you have all the tools at your disposal, all colors, all shapes, all sizes, what happens?

Nothing. You get stuck, there's too many options. And so I think about starting to frame the boundaries of, what are we about to do? Why are we even building this product or business and who it serves as the first constraint so that we can make decisions. And then the examples you laid out solo entrepreneur, you're going to make some decisions that are probably a little bit more scrappy from the tools you choose and what you build versus the person who's got, who wants to raise a hundred million dollars and get into some advanced tech. Like those are just different paths that there could even be applied to a similar space where you're creating new products. So that's how I think about this one, I think it's really really important.

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. And so, I'll shoot a couple of examples on this and why it's so important.

I had an innovation team I was working with and the sponsor for this team, the executive sponsor it's a corporate, the executive sponsor came, to the team and, had it all figured out. Here's the solution. I want you this team to go build this solution. And I was...I I had a one-on-one with this executive sponsor before we brought the team in and in the one-on-one I just said, you know what? Your solution sounds amazing. I'm not fighting you on it. This could be the right thing to do. But I asked him to back up into this vision space that we're talking about. And there's this one question that I'd encourage you to ask to help you find, what is the vision? What is the why? 

Well I asked him, Hey, so assuming this solution works, right? Assuming that your idea is the right thing to do, how would you know when you're successful? How would you know when you're successful? And he said "When customers start leaving the, stop leaving the company. When our customers...retention was it.

And and that reframe changed the entire game. Cause then I could say, okay if your, goal is retention, that's one potential solution, but there's a whole bunch of other opportunities. Let's do an inventory. It helps us ask the question now, why are people leaving? 

Robert Kaminski: Yeah. And so to me you're doing the connection here, which is terrific, into this next big piece - opportunity theory.

And yeah, when we first saw, when I first saw this, like what is this? This is abstract, right? Break this down for me. What does opportunity theory, how should they think about that? How do you think about it? 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. So we all have different ideas. We all have different thoughts on where we should go, what the solution should be, who the target customer should be. All those things, what the business model should be. All those things the word we're using right now, it could change. But the word we're using is what's your theory about the opportunity? What do you think it is? We call it opportunity theory. And that could be all these different assets that we use in product, I would put them all in this bucket because they're all the things that you think are where the opportunity lie. Like what, who's the target customer? What's a persona for that potentially? 

Robert Kaminski: And so when you say tools, you're thinking, business canvas, business model canvas, customer segment maps, like anything, any app that you have? 

Ryan Hatch: Journey maps, any assets you have, business models, all that stuff. And also your solution concepts, your wire frames or your solutions, your flows, all of that stuff. And this covers two spaces, right? Cause there's a lot of stuff in here. But there's different spaces in here. There's the solution space, the problem space, all of that stuff rolls into what you believe to be true about, hey, where I think the opportunity is. 

Robert Kaminski: Yep. The, last thing for me on this one in particular is, write it down and share it. You would not believe how often folks just keep this in their head. And they assume that everyone's going to follow along with all the knowledge they have. And so whether it's market research, conversations you've had, quotes you've picked up, the business model stuff - by documenting it, it makes it real. It takes it from Oh, it's perfect. And for me, it's that theory. That you, have to have the mindset of, this isn't fact. This is just a theory and what this opens up - and we're going to talk at length - is some of the activities you do to move it from theory into it, like a fact and execution and all those things and what it looks like. 

Ryan Hatch: And, and - totally. There's other really, great product people that you greatly respect. And if a lot of those things fall into here, there's all sorts of advanced customer journey maps, where you're doing empathy at the same time, in my mind that fits in here,. Teresa Torres, she has her opportunity tree, that fits in here. And it's all about and, even Theresa would talk about - to riff on Robert's idea, you need to externalize it - I couldn't agree more. Because if you have a co-founder, if you have other people on your team or who, whoever you're working with to make this happen, they're probably thinking about it differently than you are. If you're not writing it down, they all have, we all have different views on where the opportunity is. And externalizing that, and seeing it together is really helpful.

Robert Kaminski: And it's uncomfortable to say the least, and especially...so this is a, we see this as a repeat loop - but when you first start doing this, your concept, your research of the problem space, solution space is ...it's never going to be as worse as it is on day one. And so what I've seen in practices, as people try and document this, they get stuck at it because they don't want to be wrong. And so even if they have a half baked concept, like they won't put it down. Don't do that. You need to be able to lay it all out there to communicate it. 

And then also bringing us into the next piece and how we think about it - to extract the risk of what's going on. Take us through this one on, you have your opportunity theory and then how do you, what are we doing next in this, mental model?

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. So you have your vision of where you want to go and why you have the different paths you could take to get there, the opportunity theory and all of that. But then you need to do a gut check and this is where a lot of people...a lot of people honestly don't do well at this stage.

There's this transition from what you thought to be true. To what if I'm wrong? And that, vulnerability piece it's, real. And it's an emotional thing. Robert, we talk about every entrepreneur there's, these two roles these, dual roles when you're launching something there's the, promoter in you that wants to just go. Take the opportunity theory. You just go tell the world what you think. And start pitching and promoting. But the other side of it, and those are valuable. You need, that side of it. But, you also need the ability to be a realist as this second role.

And to, say to yourself, where could I be wrong? Where is the highest risk in what I think. 

Robert Kaminski: And there's two parts. What you just talked about in the roles is it's strategy and execution. The entrepreneur, that's all grit and just runs out and sells that's pure execution. If you don't pause to have strategy, there's, there could be risks to the strategy where you could execute the hell out of it and still fail.

And we see, I see it all the  time. One thing I think happens here when you, if you actually just put the hat on to ask questions you're ahead of most folks, because most folks don't want to go to that scary place. Another thing here is getting to the right layer of detail. And so where my mind goes, especially in the roles that you talked about is what's the risk.

Some people jump all the way to we don't have enough customers. It's okay, hang on. Like you're 10 layers ahead. You have zero customers. Let's go back to the early risks. Does anyone even care about the problem you're trying to solve for them? This is where getting some sense of hierarchy and asking the tough questions.

Don't go to the vanity style of aren't we making money yet, all the way to the top - you have to peel back the onion to get into what's really happening through your concept and what you're thinking through. 

Jacob Miller: Yeah, we do have one question that came through. I don't know if you guys want to answer that quick before we move on? Wendy asked, can you chat a little bit more on the business model canvas? It's the first time I'm hearing that phrase. 

Robert Kaminski: Oh, yeah, absolutely. So I'll step back and talk too about opportunity theory. I'll give you the high level, cause there's tons of stuff out there that probably articulates it better.

A business model canvas is a tool I believe created by a strategy that lays out your entire business model and they do it in terms of concept and prototyping in a visual one page map. And so it lays out a couple of distinct parts of how you create value for a customer, and then how you extract the value.

And then all of the things you have to do to actually build that value behind the scenes. So it lays out operationally what you do and how you communicate and deliver value to your customers through your value proposition. Including revenue and cost streams. And so perhaps we'll do a whole session on that.

There's tons of good materials out there to me , Strategen - they have a book business model generation. That was my epicenter that I picked up 10 years ago. And I continue to drive with clients today. Anything to add there on business model canvas Ryan? 

Ryan Hatch: I think you mean Strategizer, not Strategen. 

Robert Kaminski: Strategizer - what'd I say, Strategen? Yes, strategizer sorry. I plugged that wrong.

Jacob Miller: Dropped the link - I dropped the link in the chat there. So there you go. 

Robert Kaminski: Perfect. Yeah. That's good stuff. Appreciate the question. Great question. 

Ryan Hatch: And, just like she's asking about, Hey, what are the things that fit in each of these bubbles, we're not getting into those details right now, but there are tons of stuff that fit in here in the strategy there's different dimensions of risk. We address all, that stuff - desirability. Do people want your product...feasibility? 

Robert Kaminski: So it's interesting - actually I'll come back to the business model canvas, one of the ways that we extract risk and questions. And again, there's no perfect way. And Ryan talked about all the tools, the business model canvas is a really great tool for it.

And so when you do check it out, it compartmentalizes the aspects of your concept. Sometimes we'll run through an exercise where we'll go box by box and say, what's the riskiest part of this. And this could be the revenue model. This could be the channel that we're getting customers, oftentimes it's customer segments and value proposition because we're working with a lot of startups.

That's the core, that's the epicenter. But that's one way to use the tool inside of this model to generate those questions and those risks that sometimes we use.. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah, I love it. I think the output of this - before we go to the next swing in the loop - the output of this to me is risk should drive you towards questions and those questions. I would refer to them as critical questions. Like the most important question we need to answer right now. And if we don't answer this question, then like the whole business could be junked. What's the critical question you need to ask right now and you need to get an answer to? 

Robert Kaminski: Yeah. And for those of you that are familiar with lean startup, they have a very simple similar approach. It's very in the weeds and tactical to when you're in execution and actually brings us to this next piece of discovery which - Ryan, take us through this. I know there's, multiple layers of discovery, but what, do we mean here and how do we think about it? 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah, so we're, coming down okay. You've got your vision for where you want to go. You've got your theory of how you think you could get there about where the opportunity is. You've been vulnerable enough with yourself to ask, Hey, where could I be wrong? What's the critical question I need to answer right now? What's the biggest assumption I have. And then you're going to come around and figure out, okay, I have a question. How do I go about answering that? And this is, when we're doing discovery and there's, two different ways.

There's only two ways of doing discovery. There's two ways to answer critical questions. One is through exploration. And when we say exploration, it's, you're learning new material. So these could be customer interviews. This could be secondary research where you're doing market analysis. It could be competitive research.

It could be looking at the data you have and finding, answering the question you're looking for in the data. Could be a lot of different ways to explore and find out. And we value, like on this side, the customer interview side, the customer research side, that human touch that Robert talked about being so critical and undervalued by tons of people. Because the last session it was about, Hey, we're afraid to go talk to customers. That's what that is - it's the exploration part of discovery. 

Robert Kaminski: Yup. Yup I see some folks get this wrong where. They forget about exploration. That's where I see people, they take their opportunity theory embedded in them and they say, no, there's something here and they move right to experimentation. And so this is, where we think it's a little different than lean startup. It's the same methodology in principle, but lean startups a little bit more like. Go build it, get it out there. When maybe depending on the risks and questions you pulled out, maybe building first isn't the right path.

Maybe exploring the problem area becomes real important. And so we're big proponents of in our last session, like you said, get out, talk to people who you think are going to be your customers, make sure you really understand it because if they don't care, it doesn't matter how cool it is, what you build. Like you're going to have some flawed data when that comes back. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. So exploration helps you build a better theory and experimentation just gives you true or false. It just tests whether your theory is right or wrong. It's experimentation. This is where lean startup style stuff kind of lives. And it's, more narrow. You're trying to answer something in a very narrow way to get people to do something or, not? And then there's all sorts of stuff to unpack on there, on, Hey, what's a good threshold for an experiment. 

All right, moving on, moving on to Learning. 

Robert Kaminski: I'm moving us. So yeah. So we're doing - we explored, or we're experimenting in how we, do that. We're coming around the loop. What's happening here? Why are we calling out learning in particular? 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. So just like on the other side the, of the circle where you have to come down and start questioning yourself - that's that vulnerability is super important.

And I think that vulnerability is really important to carry, over to this step because after you do whatever you do on the discovery side, if you're doing customer interviews, if you're doing experiments, if you're doing - some people do surveys, there's danger there - but whatever you're doing in that discovery phase, what it's going to give you is data.

It's going to give you data and observations and you gotta be really careful about how you interpret those. So this learning phase is all about how do I turn what I'm observing - the data I'm seeing, what I'm hearing, to insights? How do I translate that? Why are they actually doing that? Or am I still making an assumption about, what they're saying or what they're, implying.

Robert Kaminski: Yeah, to me, this piece, the reason it gets its own space in our loop is - I come back to documentation and actually talking to you about it. 

You wouldn't believe how many teams and entrepreneurs they start this loop and they're doing really well. They document their concept like, Oh yeah, this is risky. We're going to go explore or we're going to go experiment. And then they never turn the corner on learning. They never stopped to say, what did this tell us? And they don't then complete the loop to update it. 

I think of a specific project I just worked on where I was helping a group startup based in Europe and they had done research. They actually had -they were doing the first part of the loop and I asked them like, all right, tell me about what happened after you were like leaving the discovery parts of these cycles. They never, they like..."we just stopped." Like they had it all on these whiteboards and they never did this synthesis of the data.

They never stopped and said. Wow that tells us this or this changes what I'm thinking about it. And so they didn't learn anything. They did all the hard work, they got to the end and then it's - I guess we still have our same opportunity theory and then we don't know what to do and we see it all the time.

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. Yeah. And, we've had - we often will do discovery in pairs and why do we do that? Because you're hearing different things, and we've had - this happens often, it's why we do it is - you get out of that interview or whatever discovery you're doing, if you're not talking about it. And actually I heard this, you heard this well, wait a second - that's where the real insights happen is those discussions and making space just for that synthesis step, just to distill and maybe disagree and discuss, Hey, what did we actually learn? What questions do we still have? And then it brings us all the way back to the top of the loop, which is our learning should drive a better theory.

Robert Kaminski: Yep. And mindsets. My - that's another thing that just triggered for me is - we always say at Headway - strong opinions, loosely held. Like when you're doing this kind of work, creating something new, if you're anchoring to your opportunity theory or to any type of execution, you're actually eliminating the possibility of you making things better.

And so like, when you get into this space, you almost have to, I know you say Ryan like, suspend belief - forget everything and just take what's in front of you to try and influence some of that learning to complete, the loop. And so this is, our loop. We added some elements in here - Ryan, what's going on with this? We have theory and reality. Where does this fold in on the visual for the folks today? 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. So if, we just take a big step out, you have your vision, then the second layer in the middle is your theory about how to get there. But what we talked about is the type of problems we're solving in, product and strategy and innovation and startups.

That's an unknown space, right? It's not a math equation, it's an unknown space. So the reason that, that we're, doing discovery that we're going around this loop is because there's, a dissonance. There's a mismatch between what we, believe to be true. And what reality is, and the reality is cloudy.

And the faster we go around this loop, we can start to close that gap between what we believe to be true, and what's actually true. And when we get those two in harmony that's when the magic happens. And disaster happens when you're, this far apart and you're just making all assumptions.

Robert Kaminski: Yeah, I think this is why corporations struggle to innovate. And so I'm speaking from my own experiences. They do ok with opportunity theory, maybe they start to get into experimentation. But maybe they only go through this loop once or twice, and then they want to know, okay -is my vision done yet? And so I've seen and interacted with these executives that are like, just plan it out, lay it out, tell me what this product we're going to have in a year.

And it's they're, ignoring the loop. They're truthfully, in our model, they're ignoring reality. And so for those of you who've seen it or been a part of that, what happens? They don't dip into the water, the deep end of this reality. And they end up on this straight path to good execution and zero effectiveness.

They're almost like guaranteeing failure by not digging into discovery and learning as you're building something new. And this is really hard ambiguous stuff. And so I've seen it quite a bit in the corporate space specifically. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. So as we think about, Hey, how do I apply this to...what's the takeaway for me, for all of you attending and watching later, what's the takeaway? 

 If I were you I would, look at this model. I put myself in it and say, Hey, what's the - the vision is the same thing as outcome, right - what's the outcome I'm really trying to achieve? Where am I really trying to go? What are the different - then moving down to opportunity theory - what are the different ways I think I can get there. Who's the customer, what's the business model, all of those things. What's the journey I think, that I'm trying to drive them towards.

 Looking at that opportunity theory. What the next thing you're going to do is you're going to come up with assumptions and ask yourself where's the biggest risk in those assumptions, right? That's going to bring you to a question about, Hey, what should I need to go learn?

And, being vulnerable, being willing to do that, and then putting a plan in place to go do that discovery. What's the appropriate kind of discovery I need to do right now. Is it interviewing, is it an experiment, right? Coming out of those experiments and those discovery sessions with data, and then suspending that belief again about coming out of the water now.

What does that - what do those observations mean? And what are those insights that were...how has that, how do those insights change, where we go and where we think the opportunity is? And the funny thing Robert is that a lot of people. Look, prototypes are sexy, right? 

Like you get into that stuff. And it's I got this idea, my light bulb idea and, everyone's going to love it, but I'm not going to show it yet. It's not ready. And let's just build it then they'll like it. All of those temptations...

Robert Kaminski:  That one makes me laugh - "we'll build it, and then they'll like it." If I had a nickel... 

Ryan Hatch: But what you're really doing - if that's your mindset - what you're really doing is you're just staying in opportunity theory and you haven't even left yet.

The question is not how good is your idea? The question is how many times have you, what's your cycle rate through this? So we think about metrics. How do we, measure innovation? How do we measure the success of our, teams? We think that the faster you are looping through here the, more you're going to learn, the more aligned with reality, you're going to be, and the better you're going to be at being able to predict the future and what, people want and why they want it.

Robert Kaminski: Yeah. And I'm glad you brought up like tactics. How do you use this? Obviously it's a thinking model. And so I know we brought up some tools that we use as a part of this. For for me, honestly, when I use this,  am I in this every minute, every hour of every day? Probably not. But I come back to it regularly as a sort of a gut check. 

Because it's - trust us, we get it. Like you're in the weeds, you are doing building, explore, experimentation. Like you gotta be heads down for that. And when I think about where's the value is...have this sort of as the North star for the big picture. Where we get that you just gotta be scrappy at times and go do certain things.

You're going to get pulled in different directions. And so I use this almost as my, come-up-for-air, like where do I think, am I ignoring good practice here? Am I in just in my pure execution, like you talked about. And so for me, it's more of a centering tool of the big picture, knowing that this is clean - like, look how nice. Five elements, like a nice, perfect circle.

Doesn't look like that in practice. And so for me, it's a good prompter for me to ask me some of those tough questions and that's how I think about it. And that's why I was excited to share it with you today, and how we did this. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah, no, I hope this is helpful for you guys no matter where you are, no matter where you are right now, with either your idea or you already have customers along that whole journey in our mental model, you still fit on here.

Like your outcome might be different than anyone else's stuff. What your theory is will be different depending on what you're trying to achieve. But I think when we sit down to somebody like it, we can put things together. You're somewhere in here right now. And I think about, even if you just go build stuff, even if you were just to do waterfall stuff, you're still going around this loop. But you're only going to go once and you're going to leave opportunity theory at the very end and you'll do one loop and you're going to learn the hard way at the very end that like you were super far apart, right? 

Robert Kaminski: Yeah. Yeah. A hundred percent. Good stuff. Yeah.

If there's any additional questions on the chat or anyone who wants to come in share ideas or where they're at, or their experiences going through this again, this is...exploring product to us is engaging with you guys as our community and covering topics that Ryan and I live in day in, day out. And we, know it's messy. 

Queue awesome elevator music!  Right?

Okay. I see one coming in from Tim. Tim asked, what is the ideal timeframe to complete a loop through the model? It's a great question. And so I'll take it first, Ryan, and then I want to know where your mind goes here. Real...I'll give you the shitty answer first. It depends. We talk about speed, but it also depends on what are you trying to answer.

And so this really depends on how you tee it up the risks and how risky it is. And so what you're asking here is when is enough learning to a degree and we actually ask ourselves, we ask that question almost every week when we're in on projects are we learning at a fast enough clip?

My experiences, if you're far along and building and testing features like pure lean startup, cycles can be very, fast - like hours, days. When you're doing new concept generation, most of my experience is that the cycles tend to be a bit more daily and weekly in terms of how we learn and come back to what we're thinking.

So we do quite a bit of that explore-type research where we're interacting with potential customers through interviews. Those are... it's almost like we're doing a micro loop when we do an individual interview and then like a weekly loop of what did we learn this week to pick up that traction?

And what we try and do is hold ourselves accountable on that daily, weekly model when we're doing explore. Experiments in other space can be fast, but if you're launching a whole new, big feature, a big product, those cycles can be a bit longer. I don't know if that lights something for you, and how you think about speed and ideal timeframe? 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah, I think it, I think the loop question, it really depends to agree with Robert, it really depends on what question you're trying to answer. Like right now because we launch ventures from scratch, like from idea from vision. We can build the whole company. And we're doing that right now with clients. So examples are, Hey, I need to test our acquisition strategy. Can we acquire, can we pull people in to the channels is our value prop resonating? What's the cost of acquisition? Those are, questions, right? That's exactly the kind of question you want to go answer.

Sometimes we can answer that very fast. You can get a Facebook ad up. I can do landing page tests. We can do that stuff pretty quick. It depends on what you're trying to learn. Sometimes... 

Robert Kaminski: And so here, I got an example for you. I'm working on a project right now, completely new concept. We're going from scratch. And so what we're doing to start is we're staying completely in the problem space and what we're exploring. And so we're doing a couple of things we're talking to experts in, kind of the space. And then we're setting up interviews with who we think our customers are. And so for us, our loops are on that daily, weekly piece.

So this is actually something I'm going to be going and executing next week is I'm going to have multiple interviews a day where I'll be doing this loop, but really in terms of the entrepreneur we're working with, it's going to be that weekly loop of, okay - we talked to 10 or 20 folks. This is what we learned.

Here's what we have to change. And then we make a decision. Does that question still exist? Or can we move to the next question in what we test? And it really is a situational thing with, for how you decide on priority. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. And sometimes you don't want loop too fast, like honestly, you're - there's really big decisions on what customer segments do you go after? 

That kind of question? You want to make sure that you answer it. You want to get to the right answer to that? If, you just do three interviews and make a decision, is it, what's your confidence level in that?  Often when we're, really selecting customer segment, it's not just a day. It could be two sometimes depends on if you want just interviews, if you want interviews, plus [quantitative] data it depends on what your confidence level needs to be.

And, when you feel like you're getting to repeatable answers, Oh, people are starting to say the same thing, right? Cause people ask us, Hey, how many interviews is enough? There's no answer to that. It's like when I start, when I start hearing the same things over and over, boom, and the patterns start to emerge, that's when you know, right?.

Robert Kaminski: Yeah. Yeah. And Eric, I appreciate the comments. And from CTE staffing you, actually triggered something for me of bringing structure to this because the crux, like underneath this, the reality when you're doing this work is usually you're doing it within a team. Maybe you're on your own, but even within a team.

So laying it out like you talk about rigor and structure? For us, this is a communication model because this stuff is again it's theory-esque. And so sometimes it's hard to communicate that. And so to me, one way you could even use this. Is simply to help stakeholders, whether it's your co-founders, team members that you're working with, on how you're thinking about things like that's another like super power and this thinking model in addition to the execution and the rigor that you talked about, but thank you for your comment.

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. And I'll just say, I really think that the questions you ask are the most important thing. Your theory can be, like Robert said in the beginning, your theory's sketchy, you really don't know much about, about what the reality. You only have so many inputs and data points. And what that drives you towards is, what the most important thing we feel is what's the critical question that you're trying to answer right now. That's so important. 

Robert Kaminski: Yep. Yeah, feel free to hit us with more questions today or continuously. We had our social handles up in the beginning. We're very reachable. We engage quite a bit, like I said, with the community and we're constantly meeting with, new entrepreneurs and ideas and doing evaluations. So stay in touch as we go through these and make sure to keep attending, we'll be covering more and more as we go through the year.

Jacob Miller: Oh, we got a new question. 

Ryan Hatch: O, is it a good one?. 

Robert Kaminski: What's the value for us and sharing our model. Oh, I love the question. This gets into the real good stuff. Is it part of your cycle? Oh, nice with customers. Oh yeah. Maybe to a degree. The honest answer is this is a combination of kind of marketing and connection with the community is how I see it.

The, other real answer is as Ryan hit on it, We know that our model is imperfect to a degree. And so this is a sort of testing our model as well. Like we, we want to make sure we know it and we think about it. The most fun in this is Ryan and I are in tune with this model. We have disagreements and we have different viewpoints on things.

And so what's cool is for us, why do we share this? We want to share that in between all these very clean lines is a ton of ambiguity and a ton of questions and probably debates and arguments and different interpretations. And we think it's important that everyone knows that, Ryan and I get tired of the A + B = C style of here's the way to build a business when we know it just doesn't happen like that.

And so transparency is the, if I had to put it into one word, that's - that's my value for sharing. This is to see how the...See how the meat gets made sort of a thing. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah, I appreciate that. I appreciate the question ...this is a distillation. This model, this visual is one of many mental models, right?

We have to use in this type of work - when we're launching, innovation. There's so many mental models you need. And when you, look at all of, what's out there and you distill it down, it's all about learning. And then what's a, learning model look like, and really we think this is it.

This is partly our contribution to the community as a thank you to all the other stuff we've seen, this is our contribution back, Hey, this is how we think it really works. And it's in flux. We could change it. 

And are we using this? There's different ways you could apply this. You can apply this with, and we've done it. We've applied it with boards and actually like moving, cards around, done that with sticky notes and, doing that kind of interaction as well. But the other way you could use it is, mentally. Like, in my mental model whether, with clients we're doing the sticky note kind of stuff or not, this is always happening every day, going around the loop.

Am I, asking the right questions right now? Is there a faster way to learn this? Is that what the customer really said? When, you go backwards, you think about if, you and your, if you, and maybe someone you work with, maybe you have different perspectives on what you think, where are you, which way you guys think you should go?

I think we should go this way or that way you can actually use this, model to walk backwards on the loop. Start with opportunity theory with your team, walk backwards and ask your, peers - Hey, what data led you to that conclusion? What observations led you to that conclusion? And then we'll bring you into their experiences.

It'll bring you into what they've seen, the data points they've seen. Maybe they have different experience or, data you don't have. So doing that as a team and helping to understand each other's perspectives to build a better theory, to build a better idea of what we should do is also something that, that we value.

Robert Kaminski: Yep. 

Jacob Miller: Yeah, we have a question from Tim. Just trying to mind the time here. 

Robert Kaminski: Yep. So Tim asks us what are some examples of questions that people want to ask that are too big and perhaps need to be broken down further? And before going through discovery. Oh yeah. And this is what we hit on earlier. So too big - it can be a combination of things, it can be combining multiple elements or going to a question that's not risky yet.

And so the first example that comes to my mind it's cause it's one that I'm dealing with this week to a degree is working with entrepreneurs. They, have the solution concept that they want to take to market. And they're starting to ask like, how much can we charge for this? And to, to us, it's wait let's, go back.

Let's unpack it. Like to them - they're almost jumping to the end. I was like, combination of how much money am I going to make? And where's the customer pay and all that. And that's great. So we're actually peeling back that question of how much can you charge into wait...who is this thing for?

So we go all the way back again. Humans are at the center customer segments, and sure we could, shed some light on the question of what are people paying to solve that problem today? But that's not, a core challenge for us when we're trying to de-risk, and so when I think about it, we're trying to pull back into - does anyone even care about this to even pay money for it? 

Forget about the number. And so we hear like prices often, and scale, and how much reach, like - all that efficiency stuff comes later. It's really, especially when doing new ventures, how do you go from initial concept and deliver it for one person before you can answer all those add on elements in terms of risk. That's how I think about that one with one example that came right to mind. 

Jacob Miller: All right. If we have any more questions, I'll be sure to t throw them in the chat, or the Q & A. Otherwise I don't know Robert and Ryan, if you just want to share, I guess the, future of exploring product? I know this is our first like, episode or conversation, I should say. Can you talk about what your plans are for the year and your hopes to help people with product strategy? 

Robert Kaminski: Yeah. Ryan and I, we have our ideas and our debates, so we want to keep that as a part of it, but we want to bring in other folks and their experiences. So big influence for us this year is going to be bringing in folks to interview.

And so this is going to be a combination of. Entrepreneurs, people who are writing books on different subjects around strategy and the product space and new ventures, and other people executing just like you guys who are listening in. And so I can't share some names yet of folks we almost have confirmed on the docket.

But there's some names in there that are really exciting that we think are going to bring even more value and more perspective...pick pick their brain to a degree. And that's where the QA will be fun. Ryan and I are almost going to be joining the Q & A - we're excited to meet some of the people that we have lined up.

And so just being able to pepper them with, like, how did you do it? Why do you get there? How do you really think about things? That's at the core of what I hope to get to this year by bringing people in. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. We're excited for exploring product. And it's about being on a journey together, right?

Whether you're in a corporate innovation team trying to, launch something there, or you're in a startup or you, just have an idea. We think that...let's let's explore product together and that's going to be hearing from different perspectives and hearing different stories. I think that's, super valuable.

We're gonna bring that. We're gonna want to bring that this year. Some people that, we respect we're going to have on here as well. So we're excited to have you join us and, stay connected subscribe. And if you have any follow-up questions, feel free to hit Robert and I up on on Twitter, if we could pull that slide up. Sure.

Yeah. Feel free to reach out. Ask us, anything. Thanks so much for coming. 

show notes
  • First Principles
  • ‍Humans are the Epicenter
  • ‍Innovation Doesn't Have a Roadmap
  • ‍The Learning Loop
  • ‍Vision
  • ‍Opportunity Theory‍
  • Risks
  • ‍Discovery
  • ‍Learning
  • ‍The Theory Reality Gap