Testing – The First Small Step from Idea to Reality

Testing is one of the most important aspects of a business start-up. Using my experience from Kenya, I have written this blog to show testing is easier than it may seem, and how to approach it.

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Comfort Zone is Killing Zone

Are you feeling comfortable? You might think this is a good thing. But, be it on a personal or business level, the only way to develop is to be subjected to new experiences, to be pushed out of the comfort zone. Having to adapt is the best method to learn and improve.

Take a business idea. It sits comfortably there in your mind, a fantasy growing into the next big thing; you are going to be rich and famous. Now don’t get carried away. An idea is one thing, but actually bringing that to life is the next. That’s where testing comes in.

A lot of people fall down here. They like the comfort of that idea in their mind; there it can be whatever they want. Testing the idea can be scary. When testing with group members in Kenya, there was some anxiety about it, whether it was just discussing the idea with their peers, questioning the public or trying to make the first sale.

People fear different things. A fear of breaking a social barrier and approaching people you have never met. A fear of your idea getting chewed up and spat back at you (literally if you are in the food business). It’s understandable; you may put a lot on the line.

But you need to put that idea out there, learn from the feedback and improve on it. If you let yourself become too comfortable and accepting of your current position (from fear or laziness), you will never move. Your idea will not see reality and you may become set in your ways, with a closed mind.

Open Your Mind

This is very important for testing. With my groups in Kenya, we practised creativity techniques early on, even as simple as brainstorming, to get them to think openly. This was hard for some people, but it really helps once you try. Having an open and creative mind means you will:

* Adjust and comeback from negative feedback. Negative comments or experiences will provide you with a problem. You can now think of a new creative solution, rather than giving up there and going home.

* Easily move on, letting ideas go. If an idea isn’t working, you will notice this and leave it. Don’t fixate on it, because it won’t make you any money. Besides, you’ll have plenty more ideas.

* Be ready for anything By being open to change your idea if you need to, then any new situation might provide a useful way to adapt your business.

Once the groups learnt not to close their mind and hold onto one specific idea, but instead be ready for change during testing, then we saw improvement.

Taking the Step

My partner and I went with most of our group members to question potential customers or partners for the first time. The results were amazing. Not only did they gain useful feedback very quickly, but the confidence of the group members increased as well. When they realised how simple it was to get this data, and at such a low cost, they continued themselves without us even asking. The previous fears were cast aside. Awareness of the businesses improved, partnerships were created and more, all through pure testing. By stepping out of their comfort zone, they developed both their businesses and themselves as people.

Testing is much easier than many people think. You can play around with the idea in your head or on paper for as long as you want, but eventually you will need to test it and the sooner the better. I realised that as facilitators, we were there to give our group members the push out the door. Not every entrepreneur in the world will have a facilitator, so your job is to push yourself to take the first step of testing. You need to be your own facilitator in this case.

If you are struggling, try making this step as small as you want. Really break down your business into its simplest form or definition. Then ask a friend what they think. Just getting our groups to discuss their individual ideas amongst each other had a great effect. You could even try creating motivations for yourself and brainstorm good ways to do this. For example, give a friend £200 and tell them to give back £10 for every person you speak to, or they keep it.

Benjamin Franklin said ‘when you’re finished changing, you’re finished’. Don’t fight change. Testing is not just applicable to the start-up of your business but should be continuous. Always challenge your ideas, always be improving them.

Written by Lewis McGregor, 2013 Fellow

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