Series: All the ideation and validation methods

(Readin’ time: 2m 18s)

After I sent this email, some of y’all asked me to expand it into a series.

It’s been a while since I sent that email, so let’s start with some context and a refresher on the overall approach I’m laying out for you.

Remember that if you’re a total generalist now, and you want the benefits of specialization but you’re somewhat risk averse or somewhat intimidated by the idea of a narrow focus in your business, your safest best is to focus on a market vertical. Things will go better for you if you choose a market vertical that you have some access to and credibility with, or if you choose one that you are genuinely madly in love with.

This “just pick a vertical” approach allows you to remain a pseudo-generalist in terms of what you offer that market vertical, but it starts to create efficiencies in your marketing. It gives you the ability to proactively seek opportunity outside your network, and it gives you the ability to be specific in your website copy and other marketing materials while starting to display some of the markers of early-stage expertise in your marketing. So it gives you some of the benefits of specialization without totally freaking you out or requiring you to do a ton of market research. You can learn more here (free) and here (low cost book).

This ideation and validation series that I’m starting today isn’t really about the “just pick a vertical” approach. Again, that approach is the quick and dirty approach to specialization, and it’s ideal for folks with younger businesses or a more risk-averse approach to their business.

Some of you have more mature businesses. Or you’ve simply been doing this longer. Or you are more risk-tolerant. This ideation and validation series is really meant for y’all.

I’ll start the series by walking through all the ideation methods I know about. These won’t be wacky stuff like James Altucher’s recommendation that you write out 10 business ideas a day on the pads of paper that waiters use to write down orders in restaurants, hoping that one of those hundreds of ideas is a good one. Instead, I’m proceeding from the simple framework of vertical, horizontal, or vertical + horizontal specialization. In other words, we’ll constrain our ideation based on what we know works well from a services specialization perspective.

Then I’ll lay out two categories of validation: introspective, which is a necessary checkpoint before proceeding further, and extrospective validation, which I consider a necessary feedback mechanism before executing on an idea. In the extrospective validation category, there are three types of validation, and they differ primarily in how “lean” or “thick” they are. The more lean methods can be executed with less work and greater flexibility (easier to shift or pivot to a different idea based on what you learn from the validation work). The more thick methods require more work, and if you’re lucky, they get you from point A to getting paid faster.

So that’s what I’ll walk you through in this series. I have a good outline for it, but I haven’t actually written it yet, so I don’t know how many emails it’ll be.

We’ll begin tomorrow.

If you’d like help with this kind of ideation or validation, I’d be happy to help: