Look for Patterns. Validate. Rinse and Repeat.

Look for Patterns. Validate. Rinse and Repeat.

Today I want to tell you all an inspiring story of (successful) challenge-driven innovation at work.  This story is about a group of students at Stanford University that tackled the issues of cost and access to care for the twenty million low birth weight preterm infants that are born annually, globally.  The infant warmer looks like a miniature sleeping bag and functions as a low cost incubator to help with temperature regulation, which can be the greatest threat to survival among preterm infants.  Apparently the students tested the sleeping bags by filling them with big Ziplock bags full of butter.  If the butter stayed nice and soft overnight, they had an effective product.  At the end of the article, the author makes an interesting point: “the idea of creating and designing a product that incorporates existing simple technology and proprietary materials driven by human ingenuity and passion to bring to market affordable disruptive healthcare products brings into focus something overlooked in today’s sycophantic startup environment.”

These brilliant students, whether they realized it or not, completed the most difficult step in the technology lifecycle: validation.  While inventors may clearly understand the science and technology itself, they are often missing the pain point and the market validation.  So for example one question to ask would be: could the technology solve the problem in in a given market?  What is the market?

Conversely, the investors and buyers may fully understand the market, but lack the product validation: is this a robust technology, does it work, and is it highly regarded by experts in the field (peer reviewed)?  And often there is a product or technology is is in limbo between these worlds; the somewhere in between proper product validation, problem validation, and market validation.  Is this a real challenge for real people?  What kind of product would relieve the pain points?  And of course the final step: can I make money selling this?  Is it worth the time, effort, and money to build?

Validation is arguably the most difficult step in the technology lifecycle.  At the same time, if validation were properly executed, we probably wouldn’t see the crippling failure rate of 90%+ among new technology products and companies.  We can work backwards or forwards in this process.

Have you come across any inspiring stories of people discovering amazing technologies? What stage of the technology lifecycle are they in? Let me know in the comments!

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