An important part of the innovation process is validating ideas.
When done correctly, it is a powerful way of getting feedback from the market on what it would take to make the innovation a success.
However, many people fall into a trap when looking for feedback.
While they think they are asking people for unbiased, honest feedback to validate the idea or innovation, in reality what they are looking for is validation of themselves.
Validation that their idea was good, and therefore it means that they are a smart, creative person.
Validation that their innovation is attractive, and therefore it means that the person hasn’t wasted their time developing it.
Validation that their innovation isn’t a failure, and therefore it means that the person is not a failure themselves.
These are all natural, positive human emotions which everyone wants to feel, yet there is a distinct danger that they will interfere with your ability to get practically useful feedback you can use to validate the idea / product / innovation itself.
For example, one of the most frequent ways of getting feedback is to interview people in person, and ask them direct questions about what they thought.
This is where there is a danger that the questions which are asked by the innovator may in fact be looking for validation of yourself, rather than the innovation:
Did you like the innovation? (Do you like an idea I came up with?)
Do you think “people” would buy this? (Please tell me it is valuable)
How / Do you think we should continue developing this? (Please confirm I haven’t been wasting my time)
The real problem here is that most people when being interviewed suffer from Social Desirability Bias, where they will give the answers which sway positively towards what they think the interviewer wants to hear. People want to please other people and are willing to bend the truth in order to do that.
This makes most in-person interviews almost useless when determining how a potential customer will react when alone and faced with the choice of using / buying the innovation.
And it may mean that the interviewer keeps developing an idea which actually has no hope of succeeding, because they always try to look for positive feedback and ignore negative feedback.
Instead, it is vital that in order to really validate an idea, you can get feedback in an unbiased way. Think of getting feedback like a scientist, where even negative feedback and small failures along the way are actually valuable validation steps which bring you closer to the version of the innovation which will ultimately succeed.
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