New product building recognizes that when you focus on understanding your users and how they discover and adopt your products, you can build features that help you acquire and retain more users, rather than just building it based on what you perceive would work for the customers.
And all this is answered only through traction a.k.a. your products engagement with the market.
Does this mean that you need to be a man without a plan (or a product vision)?
But, a man without a plan (or vision on where you want to go) is also a man without direction.
Vision: The driver of entrepreneurship
Vision is the vital energy that drives the entrepreneur, the founder, the co-founder and his immediate team. Vision is what makes them dare: dare to explore, dare to challenge, dare to insist, dare to keep pushing, dare to have the determination to succeed. Vision is the energy that provides an entrepreneur and its organization with the ability to perform and succeed. And vision is what creates and establishes the culture, which is the key component that gets softly shared between people creating and establishing norms, expectations, and duties that defines organization acts. Vision is the frame where culture lies.
Vision is the key element that not only helps the entrepreneur in the ups and downs of a venture, but also funnels its passion, perseverance, and tenacity to an end goal that needs to be shared with the organization. The vision finally allows the entrepreneur to draw others towards his own idea, to build something from scratch, and solve difficult problems in unusual and innovative ways to create greatness- which is why vision is the driver of entrepreneurship.
Vision without Traction is Hallucination
“Vision without Traction is Hallucination!” This is how Gino Wickman, author of TRACTION: Get a Grip on Your Business, describes the situation often encountered within entrepreneurial businesses that have a fairly good idea where they are going but have hit a ceiling in their growth or evolution, and now are simply spinning their wheels. They are getting no traction for continued growth.
Traction is the consistent ability to take the Vision to the ground and make it a reality through discipline and accountability, day-in-and-day-out. Traction requires a small number of specific, measurable and attainable goals. Traction also requires a rhythm of execution that gets punctuated by checkpoints in a frequent and comprehensive way.
But, the bottom line is that, if your startup doesn’t get traction, there no business.
You need both – vision and traction
In a startup building process, you need both vision and traction when you run MVP experiments.
There are some startups that are obsessed with growth hacking to the point where they think it’s going to lead them to the product roadmap.
And, there are startups that have a great product vision, but they keep adding features and capabilities without worrying about solid user traction.
Neither approach is ideal on its own, but the combination works well.
In the first case, the tail is wagging the dog. Your growth hacking may tell you what features are getting more engagement than others, but if you are just testing features, it’s like throwing darts on the wall, and forgetting you can have a solid arrow instead, with all the wood behind it.
In the second case, the wheels will eventually come off. Product vision delivery will get weakened if it’s not supported by solid user traction, engagement and repeat behavior. This means you may miss the Product/Market fit phase because you would have skirted around it.
Growth hacking alone cannot lead you to a product vision, but it can lead you to maximize your product/market fit if you already have a great product vision. They work together.
Strong opinions, weakly held
When building something, we need to balance between what we feel strongly about and getting users to validate it. How do we balance our act? When dealing with the complex new product development in an uncertain and changing environment, wise founders keep their strong opinions (or vision), weakly held.
A strong opinion (or a vision) is one based on the current best available information and knowledge. It’s a belief for which you have some evidence and one that you’re prepared to defend. Strong opinions are supported by strong arguments that validate your point of view.
On the other hand, holding an opinion weakly means – you’ll listen to contradictory views and opinions, you’re looking for evidence that may contradict your strong opinion and you’re open changing your mind and your actions.
Wise founders take action as a way to gain the feedback necessary to validate their ideas.
Take action “as if” your strong opinions are true.
Acting “as if” reminds you that you’re taking action on the best available information.
Acting “as if” reminds you that you may be wrong.
Acting “as if” keeps you open to learning and changing direction.
Instead of seeking to find the right answers, acting “as if” means you focus on chipping away at the various ways that you may be wrong, resulting in you becoming more right over time.
The fastest way of moving into the future is through defining and validating a series of hypotheses. Formulate a hypothesis based on the best available information – adopt a strong opinion. Then act, seeking feedback, adjusting as you go – weakly held.