A couple of weeks ago I asked the question, how do you validate your ideas? The question generated some lively discussion and many people shared some great insights. Of all the feedback I received, through verbal discussion and on our blog, one thought stuck out amongst all the others.

“Asking the market what it needs is like blind men describing an elephant.”

This insight was shared by Paul Sullivan in one of the comments on our last blog. Today I wanted to dive deeper into the meaning behind that statement and try and zone in on what the purpose of market research really is.

The story of the blind man and the elephant is described on Wikipedia as the following:

“In various versions of the tale, a group of blind men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one touches a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes on what they felt, and learn they are in complete disagreement. The story is used to indicate that reality may be viewed differently depending upon one’s perspective, suggesting that what seems an absolute truth may be relative due to the deceptive nature of half-truths.”

How does this relate to idea validation? It suggests that people will only be able to perceive a portion of what they want, maybe a certain feature on a software product for example. Since they will not be able to envision the entire product, it is not possible to identify whether or not a person, or an entire market, will buy a product through simple market research techniques. Everyone will have a different perspective on what they think it should be, so there is no finality in validating an idea purely on market research.

Paul goes on further to suggest:

“you have to put it out there and get the market’s reaction”

In other words, people will not know whether they want something until they see it.

Therefore, entrepreneurs need to envision what people want and come up with something that meets the needs of a certain market using their own intuition. There are, however, a number of ways to reduce the uncertainty created by relying solely on one’s own intuition. Market research, which can mean different things for different entrepreneurs, can be used to uncover insights that reduce uncertainty.

At Lumos, we believe it is essential to ‘Find Here’, or understand the market forces shaping your business, including customers and competition. Other entrepreneurs, however, utilize market research in different ways.

The question is, how do you conduct market research to help validate your assumptions?


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