There we were, one recent day at P-lab, my co-founder Paul and I, working furiously on app development for Motee. We were diligently moving back and forth between our customer interview notes, our wireframe, and our screen mockups. At every step, we tried to make sure that every last one of our customers’ needs was met.

We would occasionally stop, sit back, and admire our creation. We have a pretty good idea! We think. Don’t we? Um. Sure. Yep. We definitely do. Back to work.

Rewind to Fall 2016. We had spent months hitting the sidewalks, going out every day for customer interviews or coffees with experts in our field. The people we spoke with were inspiring and generous, and we learned a lot from their questions and opinions. They pushed back on almost every idea we had, and we went back to the drawing board many — many — times.

But then one day, our drawing was done, and it was time to make something. We got right down to work, as you do. As a consequence, we weren’t out in the field talking to people anymore.

Back to now. On this fateful day, as we reflected on our efforts, a creepy, scary awareness started crawling up the back of our necks. We were feeling comfortable. Comfortable with our ideas, our plan, and our execution.

Too comfortable.

If #MotivationMonday has taught me anything, it’s this:

Ya feel me?

And there we were, right in our comfort zone, where we reluctantly admitted we had been for a long time.


You know what nobody likes? Networking. You know what everyone hates? Sharing their precious Big Idea with other people, only to have them say, “But! Have you thought about THIS?”

Yes, we were comfortable, and the problem with that is that every Big Idea needs more than one perspective. We have a clear perspective on what we’re doing, but in order to be successful, we need challenges from other people. We need people to say,

“Don’t underestimate the importance of _________.”
“Think more creatively about that solution.”
You are neglecting this important piece of the story.”

It was a horrible, depressing realization, but once it hit, there was only one fix. We had to take our show on the road again.

Here are some things you can do to get your idea in front of people — not to “practice your pitch,” but to immerse yourself in broader viewpoints and deeper questioning.

  • Attend networking events in your area.
  • Go to conferences and presentations.
  • If you can find someone who fits your customer profile, show them mockups of your project, even in the pre-MVP stage, to get early feedback.
  • When you meet a person at an event who seems wise in the ways of your industry, invite them to lunch for a casual conversation. Ask them specifically to challenge you.
  • Dial up your former professors and co-workers and ask them to coffee. They can offer valuable guidance.
  • Set goals for these interactions. Once a week? Twice a week? Put them on your calendar and don’t call in sick, no matter how much you want to.

 

Beware the dangers of comfort!  When you stop asking for feedback, your town square ends up with one of these:

 

Oh dear.

Oh dear.

Erika

Erika Williamson, founder of Protagonist Lab. Database developer and IT consultant. Future philanthropist.