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The 7 Habits of Breakthrough Innovators

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It’s easier than ever to create a startup around a new, innovative idea. But most startups fail -- and most innovative products never take off. What differentiates the projects that DO take off? What habits, behaviors and attitudes are shared by the teams who create genre-defining hits? In this talk, you’ll learn the 7 habits of breakthrough innovators - brought to life with front-line stories from the early days of eBay, Ultima Online, The Sims, Rock Band, Covet Fashion, Happify, Lumosity and Pley. You’ll come away with a smarter approach to innovative product design - and practical, actionable design shortcuts you can use right away to turbo-charge your path towards product/market fit.

It’s easier than ever to create a startup around a new, innovative idea. But most startups fail -- and most innovative products never take off. What differentiates the projects that DO take off? What habits, behaviors and attitudes are shared by the teams who create genre-defining hits? In this talk, you’ll learn the 7 habits of breakthrough innovators - brought to life with front-line stories from the early days of eBay, Ultima Online, The Sims, Rock Band, Covet Fashion, Happify, Lumosity and Pley. You’ll come away with a smarter approach to innovative product design - and practical, actionable design shortcuts you can use right away to turbo-charge your path towards product/market fit.

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The 7 Habits of Breakthrough Innovators

  1. The 7 Habits of Breakthrough Innovators Amy Jo Kim, Ph.D. Co-Founder, Shufflebrain #Getting2Alpha
  2. What we’ll cover Introduction
  3. What we’ll cover Introduction 7 Habits of Breakthrough Innovators
  4. What we’ll cover Introduction 7 Habits of Breakthrough Innovators 3 Smart Shortcuts to get you started
  5. Introduction A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something. Frank Capra Filmmaker
  6. You’ve got a great product idea
  7. How do you know if it’s the right one?
  8. Amy Jo Kim, Ph.D. Co-Founder & Creative Director Shufflebrain Partners shufflebrain.com Creator & Head Coach Getting to Alpha getting2alpha.com
  9. We partner with great companies to make smart games for a connected world
  10. What can we learn from breakthrough innovations?
  11. Can we learn to validate our product ideas better, smarter, faster?
  12. 7 Habits of Breakthrough Innovators You can use an eraser on the drafting table – or a sledgehammer on the construction site Frank Lloyd Wright Architect
  13. Habit 1 Think like a scientist
  14. Run small, high-learning MVP experiments To increase your chances of success, minimize time through the Build-Measure-Learn cycle. Eric Ries Author, The Lean Startup
  15. Ask the hard, important questions upfront Ideas Design & Build Product Measure Data Learn
  16. What keeps people engaged in a virtual dollhouse simulation?
  17. What social systems are necessary to build trust in an online marketplace?
  18. Can non-musicians play plastic instruments together and feel like a band making music?
  19. Will fashion-loving, young women pay to play a dress-up game with real designer clothes?
  20. Will people subscribe to a digital service that delivers daily happiness exercises?
  21. Habit 2 Laser-focus on Early Adopters
  22. Find & delight your early adopters FIRST Early adopters will put up with cost & ridicule for innovations that meet real needs. Erika Hall Author, Just Enough Research
  23. Crossing the Chasm Geoffrey Moore, 1992
  24. Innovation Diffusion Theory Everett Rogers, 1961
  25. Gather ideas & feedback for key systems
  26. Cultivate relationships with content creators
  27. Leverage relationships with Super Fans
  28. Habit 3 Learn about customers’ needs & habits
  29. Piggyback on existing habits “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” Samuel Johnson Author
  30. Conduct field interviews with Early Adopters
  31. Use speed interviews to surface patterns & insights
  32. Habit 4 Create a culture of iterative testing
  33. Test early, test often There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all Peter Drucker Author
  34. Set up a weekly interview / playtest rhythm
  35. Expand testing audience as product matures
  36. Habit 5 Cultivate a customer feedback community
  37. Listen in as customers talk with each other To listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words. Steven Covey Author
  38. Create a private group for Early Adopters
  39. Offer new channels/groups for later customers
  40. Ideas Design & Build Product Measure Data Learn Habit 6 Test & refine the Core Loop early
  41. What is — and isn’t — a Core Loop? In a loop, you’re learning a skill and updating your mental model. That’s what leads to player delight. Dan Cook Lead Game Designer, Spry Fox
  42. Fake landing page?
  43. Fake landing page? X
  44. Operant Conditioning AKA Skinner Box?
  45. Operant Conditioning AKA Skinner Box? X
  46. Skill-building = Making customers more awesome
  47. Skill-building habit loop
  48. Engaging activity + internal urge fuel the loop
  49. Feedback supports learning & mastery
  50. Investment and triggers pull people back
  51. urge for a fun social activity Play a Song Together Get Score, Accolades, $$ Develop skill, play harder songs Core Loop
  52. urge for a quick social break Read & Respond to Updates Check Notifications & Stats Read & Respond to DMs Core Loop
  53. Engaging activities fuel the loop
  54. Feedback & progress light the way
  55. Triggers & investment pull customer back
  56. Habit 7 Create a path to Mastery
  57. Ralph Waldo Emerson Ideas Design & Build Product Measure Data Learn “Every artist was first an amateur.”
  58. Engage customers with progressive skill-building
  59. Empower enthusiasts with tools, access & privileges
  60. Test wireframes / mockups / ideas with Early Adopters
  61. Build aspirational progression systems
  62. Surface & empower high-skill customers
  63. Engage enthusiasts with in-world powers
  64. 1. Think like a scientist 2. Laser-focus on Early Adopters 3. Learn about customers’ needs & habits 4. Create a culture of iterative testing 5. Cultivate a customer feedback community 6. Test & refine the Core Loop early 7. Co-create a path to Mastery 7 Habits of Breakthrough Innovators
  65. 3 Smart Shortcuts that turbo-charge your path to product/market fit You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down. Ray Bradbury Author
  66. Shortcut 1 The MVP Canvas
  67. Clarify your product strategy
  68. Identify strengths, values & success metrics
  69. Prioritize your highest-risk assumptions
  70. Shortcut 2 Speed Interviews
  71. Interview 10-15 Early Adopters (5-10 min per interview)
  72. Ask just a few revealing questions Daily Habits Beliefs & Ideas Unmet Needs
  73. Find enthusiastic early (customers + insights)
  74. Shortcut 3 Habit Stories
  75. Turn customer insights into design-ready job stories When _________ I want to ______________ so I can _____________ trigger activity + goal outcome
  76. Habit Story = Existing Habit + Unmet Need
  77. Piggyback your Core Loop on an existing habit
  78. MVP Canvas BEFORE Young women (18-30) who play mobile fashion games Aspirational dress-up in designer fashion PLUS celebrity stylist advice
  79. MVP Canvas BEFORE Young women (18-30) who play mobile fashion games Aspirational dress-up in designer fashion PLUS celebrity stylist advice F2P co-op game with real-world fashion content and hot trends Vogue alternative – stay up-to-date on fashion by playing – not just looking
  80. MVP Canvas BEFORE Young women (18-30) who play mobile fashion games Aspirational dress-up in designer fashion PLUS celebrity stylist advice F2P co-op game with real-world fashion content and hot trends Vogue alternative – stay up-to-date on fashion by playing – not just looking F2P game experience Existing, addressable audience for fashion games Like/Dislike metrics via interviews with hardcore fashion gamers
  81. MVP Canvas BEFORE Young women (18-30) who play mobile fashion games Aspirational dress-up in designer fashion PLUS celebrity stylist advice F2P co-op game with real-world fashion content and hot trends Vogue alternative – stay up-to-date on fashion by playing – not just looking F2P game experience Existing, addressable audience for fashion games Like/Dislike metrics via interviews with hardcore fashion gamers Young women want a mobile game based on real-world fashion PLUS access to a celebrity stylist
  82. Speed Interviews: How we did it •  15 young women 18-40 who play mobile fashion games •  Recruited from existing player base & Craigslist ads WHO
  83. Speed Interviews: How we did it •  15 young women 18-40 who play mobile fashion games •  Recruited from existing player base & Craigslist ads WHO WHAT •  Spend 5-10 minutes answering 3-5 questions •  The best interview subjects became paid testers
  84. Speed Interviews: How we did it •  15 young women 18-40 who play mobile fashion games •  Recruited from existing player base & Craigslist ads WHO WHAT WHEN & WHERE •  Spend 5-10 minutes answering 3-5 questions •  The best interview subjects became paid testers •  Over a period of 2 weeks •  Via telephone or Skype
  85. Research Results: 3 Key Patterns Fashion Browsers Want to immerse themselves in a beautiful aspirational world that keeps them up-to-date on fashion trends. Co-Creators Want to “do fashion” with a buddy – a friend or relative they can dress with, shop with, and borrow from. Armchair Stylists Love telling other people how to dress – they want to role-play a celebrity stylist, and get credit for their fashion sense.
  86. Fashion Browser “When I’m tired after a long day, I want to flop on the couch and get the escapist, immersive experience of flipping through Vogue – but in a game.”
  87. Fashion Browser Habit Story When I log into the game I want to see gorgeous, creative outfits – made from the latest designer fashions So I can stay on top of fashion trends in a fun and relaxing way
  88. Co-Creator “Patti told me to put these shoes and belt together with this outfit – I would never think of that, but it TOTALLY works. I need her advice all the time.”
  89. Co-Creator Habit Story When I need to dress up for an important event I want to raid my friend’s closet and get her feedback on my outfit online So I can have her accessorize my look and help me feel confident – just like in real-life :-)
  90. Armchair Stylist “I LOVE the idea of a game that lets me rate my friends’ outfits and tell them how to dress better – like I do before a party :-)”
  91. Armchair Stylist Habit Story When I give fashion feedback to others I want to Know if my feedback had an effect So I can Feel happier, knowing that I’m helping others be more fashionable
  92. MVP Canvas AFTER Young women (18-30) who play mobile fashion games F2P co-op game with real-world fashion content and hot trends Vogue alternative – stay up-to-date on fashion by playing – not just looking F2P game experience Existing, addressable audience for fashion games Like/Dislike metrics via interviews with hardcore fashion gamers Young women want a mobile game based on real-world fashion PLUS access to a celebrity stylist Skews older – women 18-45 like the game and older women spend more $ Aspirational dress-up in designer fashions PLUS advice from aspiring player- stylists
  93. MVP Canvas AFTER Young women (18-30) who play mobile fashion games F2P co-op game with real-world fashion content and hot trends Vogue alternative – stay up-to-date on fashion by playing – not just looking F2P game exp. Addressable audience for fashion games Young women want a mobile game based on real-world fashion PLUS access to a celebrity stylist Skews older – women 18-45 like the game and older women spend more $ Aspirational dress- up in designer fashions PLUS advice from aspiring player-stylists Like/Dislike metrics via interviews with hardcore fashion gamers
  94. MVP Canvas AFTER Young women (18-30) who play mobile fashion games F2P co-op game with real-world fashion content and hot trends Vogue alternative – stay up-to-date on fashion by playing – not just looking F2P game exp. Addressable audience for fashion games Young women want a mobile game based on real-world fashion PLUS access to a celebrity stylist Skews older – women 18-45 like the game and older women spend more $ Aspirational dress- up in designer fashions PLUS advice from aspiring player-stylists Like/Dislike metrics via interviews with hardcore fashion gamers And will spend $ on a game based on real-world fashion And up-and- coming stylists
  95. Iterative lo-fi play-testing à Hit Game
  96. Try these techniques for yourself getting2alpha.com/shortcuts
  97. Turbo-charge your path to product/market fit getting2alpha.com Startup Teams Product Leaders Innovative Companies
  98. Thank you amyjokim@gmail.com @amyjokim #Getting2Alpha

Editor's Notes

  • Welcome! Use the hashtag #Getting2Alpha to tweet comments and questions about this presentation.
  • Today we’ll start with a short introduction
  • Then we’ll get right into the 7 habits that characterize breakthrough innovators
  • Followed by 3 practical shortcuts you can use right away to turbo-charge your design process
  • If you’re an entrepreneur, an innovator, or a maker– you already know that everything starts with a hunch.... an exciting idea to explore... A hot area to pursue,..
  • a vision for a product game app or device you’re itching to build. But until you’ve developed and tested it
  • , your idea is only a hypothesis. How do you know if today’s idea is the right one to pursue?
  • I’m Amy Jo Kim game and product designer specializing in early-stage innovation.
  • At Shufflebrain, we’ve had the pleasure of working with many great companies and teams – all trying to build something innovative and new. Some were more successful than others.
  • A handful of our early-stage clients went on to become genre-defining hits. What set these breakthrough innovations apart?
  • Can we identify habits, beliefs and behaviors that reliably lead to smarter, faster, innovation?
  • I think we can – and today, I’m going to share the 7 habits of teams who produce successful breakthrough innovations.
  • The first is foundational: Think Like a Scientist.
  • Successful innovations start with small, iterative experiments designed to answer the most important questions. This meshes well with a Lean Startup approach, where the path to success involves moving quickly through the build/measure/learn cycle
  • The most striking pattern - shared by ALL the successful innovations I’ve worked on – is a willingness to ask the hard, important questions upfront, AND then seek the answers experimentally
  • The Sims spent years experimenting with different approaches to bringing a virtual dollhouse to life, finally settling on a design that became the highest-grossing PC franchises of all time.
  • The early team at eBay experimented with a variety of social systems for building trust among buyers and sellers, at a time when online shopping was a niche activity.
  • The Rock Band team faced a daunting product challenge: could non-musicians – playing plastic instruments – make music together and FEEL like a band? Answering that question was fundamental: – without a resounding YES, nothing else mattered.
  • The Covet Fashion team had created several mobile fashion games – and hit a wall. To create a breakthrough hit, they needed to reach a broader audience of fashion-loving women Using a disciplined, experimental approach –the team iterated their way into Crowdstar’s biggest success to date.
  • The team behind Happify knew first-hand the power and efficacy of science-based happiness exercises. What they needed to know was whether people would pay for guided happiness exercises within a convenient, game-like service.

  • #2 characterizes how successful innovations get started – by focusing on and delighting a small, passionate group of early adopters. They don’t always look like Segway-riding rock stars – your job is to recognize the right early adopters for YOUR project
  • to innovate successfully, – you NEED to find & delight a handful of people who are LOOKING for what you’re offering – and will put up with cost, inconvenience and and ridicule to use your product because it solves their problem, or meets some real need.
  • Have you ever heard of Crossing the Chasm – by Geoffrey Moore? This influential book talked about the difficulty of marketing innovative products to a mass market - and opened people’s eyes to the key differences between early adopters and early majority.
  • Moore’s book was based on work done three decades earlier -- Everett Roger’s Innovation Diffusion Theory is a data-driven model of how new products spread through existing communities.
  • Your early adopters can add value in many ways. Pierre Omidyar – the founder of eBay - was the original customer support rep for the service – and during a support interaction, an early user came up with the idea for eBay’s reputation system
  • Will wright – the genius game designer behind The Sims – cultivated relationships with an active, highly creative group of super-fans who provided a rich source of ideas, user-testing and content creation long before the game ever shipped to paying customers.
  • The Rock Band team knew that social dynamics could make or break their ambitious multi-player music game – so we focused on understanding the needs and habits of avid social gamers and non-musicians, which helped to create a massive crossover hit
  • The third habit – learning early about customer needs and habits – can have a dramatic impact on customer uptake and adoption

  • Too often, we assume that people will adopt a new habit to use our product or play our game – but it’s MUCH smarter to embed your experience into a habit that already exists.
  • If you have the time & opportunity, interviewing people “in the field’ – meaning where they live,work or play – is a great way to understand more about their habits & needs. Early in the Rock Band project, we interviewed dozens of casual gamers, and gained early insights that helped to shape the game.
  • #4 is about creating a culture of iteration and learning.
    If you embrace lean methods – and want to set your team up for success – create a culture of quick, iterative, high-learning play-testing in your team and organization.
  • Successful innovators are tinkerers and experimenters –they test and refine many ideas – and include their customers in an iterative feedback loop from the start.
  • In practice, setting up a regular rhythm usually gets the best results. One Covet Fashion, we setup weekly interviews with fashionable young women, gamers and non-gamers alike – and then used those sessions to test our early ideas – and then later our systems and interfaces, once the game was playable.

  • The Sims team developed an early Friday playtest within the team – and later grew those tests to include an enthusisastic, content-creating fan community.
  • This habit builds on the previous ones. Once you’re in touch with passionate early customers, giving them an easy way to stay connected to you – AND to each other – is a high-leverage move.
  • A well-run customer feedback community delivers ongoing value by keeping you engaged with passionate cusomters – and even more so, by giving you a way to listen in as your customers talk with each other about your product.
  • Every breakthrough innovation I’ve worked has created and leveraged a early adopter feedback community
    Happify, for example, invited select early customers into a private Facebook group – and kept things alive with daily posts, polls and tidbits from the development pipeline.
  • And don’t make the rookie mistake of lumping all your customer together into one big undifferentiated community. You can create new gathering place – such as the Slack channel shown here – to gather feedback from later customers, or different verticals within the community.
  • This brings us to one of the most critical habits: testing and tuning the most important part of the customer experience FIRST.
  • A Core Loop is a gaming concept that describes the interlocking activities, progress markers and rewards that a player experiences during a gaming session. As game designer Dan Cook says, skill-building and learning are an essential part of what makes games compelling fun.
  • When you’re validating your product ideas, be careful not to fall into the trap of testing your marketing message – and thinking you’ve validated your core loop.

  • A fake landing page will help you shape your message – but it’s NOT going to help you shape or test your core product experience.

  • An operant conditioning loop – such as the Habit Loop (from the Power of Habit book) or the Hooked model – gets you closer to a Core Loop, because it’s based on feedback and rewards.
  • What’s missing, though, is any notion of skill-building or personal empowerment. Skinner Boxes and operant conditioning loops can shape behavior – but they won’t lead to player delight or true long-term engagement.
  • For that, you need skill-building. People enjoy getting better at something they care about. The process of learning and mastery is deeply, intrinsically motivating.

  • To create a robust Core Loop,

    You want to combine compelling feedback with the skill-building power of games.
  • Create repeatable, engaging activities that are triggered by an existing urge or need
  • Build a feedback loop that promotes learning and skill-building
  • close that loop by giving people compelling and meaningful reasons to return – and cues to remind them
  • Breakthrough innovations spend lots of time up-front getting this core experience loop right. The Rock Band tea, for example, created a War Room for protoyping and testing early versions of the game – and didn’t add features or polish until the feel of that early play experience ROCKED.

  • Although it’s much simpler, Twitter’s Core Loop has the sample basic dyanmics
  • This habit i- creating a path to mastery - is the golden key to building long-term engagement with your customers.
  • teams who produce Breakthrough innovations recognize the importance of early adopters – and find ways to co-create with them – empower them - learn from them, and leverage their skills, knowledge and passions to bring the full product vision to life.
  • You can engage ALL your customers with progressive skill-building...
  • But you’ll only engage your best customers – your early adopters, enthusiasts and passionate advocates – and-- by giving them the tools, powers and rewards of mastery.
  • More than anything, these people want to have an impact. One simple way to enable that is by testing early mockups and ideas with your early customer communitym as Happify did regularly. You’ll get valuable feedback – and your early customers will feel special and important.
  • For Rock Band, the mastery systems were built around the Rock-N-Roll fantasies of social gamers and non-musicians – something the team absorbed through interviews & early testing.
  • And Covet Fashion was created from the ground up around rating systems that naturally bubble true fashion expertise among the players.

  • Ultima Online – an early precursor to World of Warcraft – offered many different earned roles to loyal players to help police & manage their gameworld
  • 7 habits that set the stage of breakthrough innovations. These habits don’t guarantee success – that takes hard work, persistence, luck, and market timing – but what they WILL do is increase your chances of building something innovative that people want and need.
  • Now let’s switch gears, and take a look at 3 smart shortcuts you can start using TODAY to turbo-charge your customer discovery process.
  • The first shortcut is the MVP Canvas – a 1-page document, similar to the Business Model Canvas, but highly targeted to the needs of early stage product development.
  • First you clarify your product strategy by forming hypotheses about your early customers, unmet needs, solution and value prop.
  • You also identify your team’s strengths, value and passions – and the early metrics you’ll use to measure success
  • You’ll then list and prioritize your most important, high-risk assumptions – and use that list to focus your prototyping and testing efforts.
  • The second shortcut is the Speed Interview – part of our Early Adopter Funnel, shown here. This is a powerful technique for generating early product insights & excellent testing subjects.
  • You conduct 10-15 quick interviews with potential early adopters – who you can find & filter in a variety of ways –spending 5-10 minutes on each interview
  • You ask just a few revealing questions - carefully-chosen to surface the needs, habits and ideas of true early adopters
  • once the interviews are complete, you’ll identify 5-7 enthusiastic early adoptees who would make great testing subjects – along with actionable customer insights that you can use in for product design
  • The third shortcut is Habit Stories – a variation on Job Stories, or Jobs-To-Be-Done

  • Habit Stories help you harvest the most actionable product insights from your customer interviews and testing sessions

  • A habit story is a special type of job Story – one that’s built around your customer’s existing habits and unmet needs.
  • If you’re looking for shortcuts to customer engagement and satisfaction, piggyback your product experience on to of an existing habit – amd solve a problem or unmet need that goes along with that habit.
  • Let’s look at how Covet Fashion used these techniques to super-charge their early product development – and design a hit game
  • Covet Fashion came about because Crowdstar saw an opportunity to expand the fashion gaming market by integrating with real-world fashion brand, Our initial product strategy involved letting fashion gamers play dress-up with real world brands – and get advice from a well-known celebrity stylist.
  • Our initial product vision was a free-to-play co-operative mobile game tied to fashion trends and real-world events. We wanted to offer people a replacement for Vogue” – something beautiful to flip through and play with that keeps you up-to-date on fashion trends.
  • Our unfair advantages are 1) extensive F2P experience and 2) an addressible audience for testing and marketing the game. Out early metrics were subjective responses drawn from weekly interviews.
  • Our key assumption was the basic premise of blending real-world fashion cycles with a F2P mobile game. We also wanted to understand the value-add – or not – of a celebrity stylist.
  • For the speed interviews, we spoke with young fashion-loving women – both gamers and non-gamers
  • We did the interviews as phone screening – with paid testing as a followup for the best interviews.
  • We completed the first round in 2 weeks, which gave us useful customer insights and testing subjects to work with.
  • From these early sessions, three key patterns emerged that corresponded to different types of fashion gamers.

  • The first is the Fashion Browser – someone who loves staying up to date on fashion trends, and immersing herself in the beautiful aspirational world of Vogue,
  • WE translated these research insights into design decisions by creating a Habit Story around her existing habits and unmet needs
  • The second pattern we identified is the Co-creator – someone who likes to dress, shop and primp in co-op mode, with a buddy
  • Writing her Habit Story helped us see the need for a Shared Closet – which became a much-loved feature of the finished game
  • The third pattern we identified is the Armchair Stylist - Someone very opinionated about fashion, who loves to tell other people how to dress
  • Her Habit Story helped us get inside the mindset of a wanna-be stylist, and create a in-game rating system to empower and highlight these people
  • We updated our MVP Canvas to reflect what we learned. Our hypotheses were largely confirmed – and our age targets tweaked a bit.
  • The F2P game we’d envisioned looked like it could be a hit with fashion-loving young women who own smartphones and tablets
  • SO we validated our initial assumptions, and generated NEW assumptions to guide our next round of testing.
  • And that’s how a solid start in low-fidelity, high-learning playtesting helped Crowdstar create their largest hit to date.
  • Now that you see how these ideas work together, I encourage you to try our these shortcuts and techniques for yourself –just click anywhere on this slide, or goto MVP DESIGN HACKS DOT COM SLASH SHORTCUTS – or click anywhere on this slide
  • If you want more, check out Getting2Alpha – our online coaching program to turbo charge your path to product/market fit
  • Thank you for your time – I hope you enjoyed this, and I’d love to hear from you.
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