I read a quote a while back from Reid Hoffman, founder of Linkedin: “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” I’ve thought of this so many times as I work with my clients and on my own business.
As business owners, we have to be creative enough to try new things, smart enough to let go when they’re not working and resilient enough to keep trying new things. As Hoffman sagely points out, it’s through this constant experimentation that we learn, grow, become better businesspeople and provide more value for our clients.
Case study: a boardgame
I’m working with a client who developed a boardgame that focuses on Lake Tahoe. It’s a good product, and it’s taken a huge effort to get this developed and produced—the board’s design, instructions, iconic little pieces, scorecard, packaging, logo, website, etc. My client’s now busy developing her next game and sees a bright future that includes a series of games that she can sell as learning tools to the education industry.
Lack of identifiable audience
We’ve gone down many paths trying to market the Tahoe game, without much success. We finally had a come-to-Jesus about this and agreed that it’s time to cut our losses on our prototype. The market is too narrow and specialized; the game doesn’t have broad enough appeal to justify spending any more time trying to sell it to an audience that we can’t identify.
But boy, have we learned a lot . . .
Painful and expensive as this has been, it has also been a huge learning experience. There are many things we learned that we probably couldn’t have known except by trying and failing. The value is that we now have the opportunity to work faster and smarter on subsequent games. The burden of proof is on us to not make the same mistakes again.
The other important learning: letting go
Letting go was a very difficult decision, but not as hard as I thought it would be. My client is smart, practical, able to see the big picture and move on. Were we embarrassed by our first version? Not at all. It’s beautiful—just not consistent with our new, larger company goals.
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