BA 850
Sustainability Driven Innovation

Closing Remarks

van gogh painting of woodcutter
Credit: public domain
Believe me that in artistic matters the words hold true: Honesty is the best policy. Better to put a bit more effort into serious study than being stylish to win over the public.

Occasionally, in times of worry, I've longed to be stylish, but on second thoughts I say no–just let me be myself–and express severe, rough, yet true things with rough workmanship. I won't run after the art lovers or dealers, let those who are interested come to me.

In due time we shall reap if we faint not.

- Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, March 11, 1882

Understanding the Rough, True Things in Our Offering

Up until this point in the process and our time together, we have gone through painstaking amounts of rigor and research to frame opportunities in the sustainability space, performed initial fieldwork to understand the mind space, mapped the thoughts and feelings of customers, created strategic paths, and perhaps done some hypothetical testing.

But is it now, in microtesting, that the rough, true things about the offering and its potential in the market only begin to become known. There is only one truth, and that is how the offering performs in the live environment.

As exciting, illuminating, and cathartic as this stage in the process may be, it is only the beginning.

It has been a long road until this point, but this is the path of creating an original offering based on insight and understanding, not duplication or fabrication. Make no mistake, if successful, others are likely to copy the offering, but in virtually all cases, they will not have the insights underlying their work. It is the insight which allows you to extend the offering and understand it at a deeper level than simply Xeroxing someone else's work. The insight is what allows meaningful, resonant creation.

The offering will continue to be honed and iterated, along with the messaging and other cues. There is no "resolution"... there is no "We're there!" moment when you get to open that bottle of champagne in the back of your filing cabinet.

On Roughness

It is also in this phase where we purposefully avoid marketing gloss, PR, and other forms of publicity. We want to understand how the complete proposition performs by itself, unaided and unclouded by extra marketing. The basic proposition should prove value in and of itself, before we begin to go "pedal down" on marketing and engage agencies.

There is a very specific reason for this: At this point, we are more concerned with understanding "what's in the box" as opposed to "what's on it." Our goal is to understand the core proposition, not what added benefit or buzz our ad agency can create.

This isn't to say that we somehow suppress or undersell the proposition in microtesting, just that we shouldn't cloud it with celebrity endorsements or introductory discounts or flashy gifts.

Quite literally, the goal is to quietly create our microtests and "...let those who are interested come..."

On Persistence

We must always remember that no matter how promising or disappointing the initial results are, we are incredibly limited in our understanding of the offering in the market.

As microtesting and other learnings progress over the weeks, this will become arguably one of your most difficult decisions–whether to continue to iterate on a proposition, change to a new strategy/path, or abandon the effort altogether.

What makes it all the more difficult is your role in creating sustainability-driven innovation. You are the expert on this offering, you understand its weaknesses and potentialities at many levels, and you are expected within the organization to be its lead advocate.

Dogged persistence and belief have led to many major successes. We know these stories well.

Blind over persistence has led to many total failures and bankruptcies. These stories are rarely as well known.

We know the successes because, frankly, those companies are still around to have PR departments and people writing the inevitable business books of those successes.

It is difficult to know when we are advocating, and when we are too personally interwoven with an initiative. I can tell you from experience, this threshold is very difficult to understand without meaningful measurements and a strong partner/contrarian voice. The goal is to partner with someone you can brief on the program, who does not have a business interest in it, and whom you trust. Ultimately, you want to have someone who can provide counsel and frank conversations.

I believe you will also find that it is far easier to move on to a new approach or opportunity when you have them already identified. This is a strength of the approach we have taken, as you will likely have a handful of approaches and opportunities... when you start getting "bad signals" from the current opportunity, it is that much more easy to shift gears onto the next opportunity.

In either case, the decision to either continue to try to push through the current opportunity or abandon and shift to another is a difficult one, indeed. If you ever need an impartial voice or some detached feedback, always feel free to reach out to me. Consider it a perk.

Stating Our Goals for Revealed Preference Methodologies

To refresh ourselves, our objectives for this Lesson are to:

  • articulate the strengths and limitations of the revealed preference methodologies;
  • discern where microtesting may be most valuable;
  • understand the tools and philosophies of microtesting;
  • create a framework for microtesting an offering.

To help cement these concepts in our mind a bit and illuminate the potential for microtesting, this week's assignment will allow us to use a live version of an excellent tool for identifying keywords while framing of a microtesting strategy.