Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Survival - part one... Collision point vs. Tipping point.

Survival - part one


Is the survival of a BIG idea for the smartest, luckiest, quickest or the most committed?  In the next few blog posts I will discuss 5 fundamental survivalist techniques for entrepreneurs, artists and anyone who pursues changing the world and wants to make a living while you do it.

Discover and conceive

As a technologist, consultant, start-up mentor and entrepreneur I find myself on a never ending quest to  address the needs of niche markets as I listen to their problems and preferences and assess the readiness to change.  I research to discover innovative technologies, ideas, and attitudes that already exist so they can be combined with the magic sauce of gap filler technologies, creative ideas and simple business models to meet a need and survive.  The 1M+ apps on Apple's app store alone illustrate the magnitude of the possible BIG ideas as well as potential competitors.   Once you have conceived your next BIG idea, understanding the difference between collision point and tipping point is one essential survival technique.

Collision Point or Tipping point?

Collision point

When I think I am onto an innovative idea to a address a need or problem using a combination of technologies discovered or developed, I remind myself of the even more difficult task of predicting how ready the market is to like and adopt it.  Whether is it a new song, gizmo, software or movie, the earliest possible point of marketability is when the market need/desire intersect with product's capability. I call this the collision point.    It might look exciting, and even inspiration at first, like the photo above showing the collision of protons and electrons.   But many times in the life cycle of an idea the point where the collision occurs only touches a small portion of the market, like the innovators and maybe the early adopters portion of the graph shown below.  

Take the 4 million MySpace artists whose Mom's loved their latest song.  That small biased market research is not an indication that there is a market out there ready to buy your product.  A willing few may share with their friends, especially when it costs them nothing.  To an experienced optimist like myself this may be all that is needed to jump energetically head first into an empty pool.  Some of my early ideas were merely empty pools because I was unprepared for the adventure ahead.  If you are full of testosterone, and armed with an MBA like I was, you may be tempted to beat your competition to the market and find your own empty pool.  If you do, your great swan dive of faith could leave you unconscious at best and might even render you comatose.....unless you've planned to survive the iterative cycle of new product and market development!  

The Tipping point

Several years ago as I argued passionately for a early stage business concept with a my boss, he told me that the pioneers are the guys with the arrows in their backs.  He didn't want to take the risk.  I couldn't argue with that.  I had my share of arrows.  If you have an early stage idea and want to be one of the pioneers who can survive a few arrows then develop a plan for surviving until the market's tipping point arrives.  

The tipping point is when the stars align for your BIG idea.  Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point is a great read.  The tipping point can be the smallest combination of things that have evolved to make conditions perfect for adoption within your SAM (serviceable available market) to build with some momentum behind it.  For the fax machine, just enough people had to have one before everyone needed one to compete.  

I don't know if it is possible to make tipping point estimation a science, but we are certainly capable of seeing the trends develop in our social media world.  Now we can listen to the discussions of our market by searching key words and hash tags, measure the trend's growth and predict the arrival of the tipping point.  I also highly recommend Seth Godin's Tribes for a detailed look at building momentum.

We will explore some strategies like prototyping, MVP, and hibernation, in other blog posts.  For now I will only highlight that tools like patents, copyrights and strategies for perseverance will give the survivors the extra stuff needed to wait while market conditions evolve.  Then when the market conditions are right, you can paddle out into an ocean of opportunities and ride a wave of momentum.  If you time the wave right, you might be one of the few to reach the wave's crest and be the market leader.  

What's next?

In my next post we will continue this discussion and explore the smoke screens that can mislead us into believing our market's tipping point is just around the corner when it really isn't.  And will look at some strategies for riding the storm out.  Until then hang on and enjoy the ride and look out for empty pools.

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