(Largely) Ignore the critics

There’s an echo chamber. It’s natural to surround ourselves with people who hold perspectives that fit with our own. And these vibrations amplify our conviction that everyone shares our worldview, believe what we believe and wants what we want.

Until we start engaging the masses.

When we seek to change the broader market, some of that market will object. The voice of “no” can be heard in the crowd. And the feedback given to us may be shock, denial or anger.

In the face of objections, it’s easy to trim the edges off and fit in. Squeeze to fit in. Fit in more than anyone else.


It’s not for them (at this moment).

It’s for the minimum viable market, the stakeholders you originally set out to serve.

Customer curation

Standard Bank introduced a focus on the customer by immersing themselves in the market. They visit local-townships, seeking to explore how informal traders utilise pocket payment devices by interacting with shop owners and their customers. They visit affluent suburbs, getting a sense of who the flagship branch customer is and want they want from their banking solution.

Customer curation is the act of gaining a line of sight to customers, of meeting them at the intersection between what you do and what they want. This line of sight is worth far more than having customers orbit around you and dictating to them how they must engage. It’s this that separates helpful projects from dispensible and superfluous ones. Are there stakeholders who want you to succeed so much that they’re keen to work with you to build the change you seek to make?

Everything becomes easier when you flip the hubris of anyone on its head. Your work is not for everyone. It’s only for those people who sign up for the journey.

Scale of the map

Once you’ve crafted the scope, next find the place where the customer can’t wait for your attention. Immerse yourself. Put your finger on the map where you and you alone can provide their perfect utility. Address these stakeholders’ wants and dreams and desires with your care, your attention and your focus. Make change happen. Change that’s so profound, people can’t help but talk about it.

Agile thinking is built around the idea of the minimum marketable product. Figure out the smallest amount of change that can be shipped which will provide results for your customer. Then improve and repeat.

What people miss about this idea is the word viable. It doesn’t help to ship something that doesn’t work. It doesn’t help to ship something that doesn’t give. It’s doesn’t serve to ship selfishly.

When we blend these ideas, we can think lean and think quickly. Our agile approach to the opportunity combined with a relentless focus on those we seek to serve means that we’re more likely to be of service.

SMART is a kind of bravery

SMART makes you accountable.

It worked or it didn’t.

It produced or it didn’t.

It embedded or it didn’t.

Are you hiding behind broad or unintentional?

You’ll never be able to serve everyone with everything, which is encouraging since you are less likely to be disappointed when you miss that goal.

But what if you committed to the minimum marketable product?

What if you were precise about who you were seeking to serve and smart about what change you were seeking to make?

Focus your project, your product and your organisation around the minimum. What is the smallest tangible change a customer will appreciate?

Focusing the scope

The default of aiming at the mass-market (for growth and share) will make you average, because mass means broad, it means middle of the road, it requires you to be all things to all stakeholders. Satisfying the masses leads to generalisation and consolidation—it forces compromise. Aim here instead: with the minimum marketable product. What’s the minimum change you can deliver to your stakeholder to make the effort worthwhile?

If you could only change seventy-four people, or eleven thousand people, you’d want to be smart about which people you choose. And if you were constrained by resources, you’d focus your energy on utility for that customer.

When Zappos started up in 1999, its founder Nick Swinmurn, had the notion that people wanted to buy shoes online (even though they wouldn’t be able to try them on). But which somebodies and which shoes and which sizes? Nick’s plan was to go to local shops and take pictures to post online. Think sixteen pairs of shoes. And if you can only delight sixteen people, the best place to start is by focusing on the sixteen people who want what you’re offering. Focus on the people most open to hearing your story. Focus on the people that will help to shape utility. Focus on the people who will spread the word… The magic of Zappos wasn’t the website experience (it was simply a list of shoes with photographs and descriptions) or the fulfilment process (when someone bought a pair, Nick went to the store, purchased them, shipped them, and handled payments himself). No, the magic was in the courage it took to carefully curate the customers and create utility from there.

Choose the people to change, choose your future. Because the minimum marketable product is the focus that, ironically, leads to market growth and share.