Marriott Alumni Magazine

Winter 2015

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The Next Step Facing Uncertainty with Innovation By Angela Marler Illustrations by Mark Miller The prototype wasn’t pretty. Wrapped in tinfoil and dotted with hand-drawn circles, the cardboard cylinder could have easily passed for an elementary school project, but the student entrepreneurs didn’t mind. Why should they spend money on a product they weren’t sure people wanted? With creation in hand, they took to the streets, asking Utah County residents: how much would you pay for a security system like this? If it were real, that is. Imaginary security system aside, this type of low-tech analysis—which mitigates risks for entrepreneurs by providing valuable feedback early in the innovation process—is one of the core tenets of The Innovator’s Method: Bringing the Lean Start-Up into Your Organization, a bestseller coauthored by Marriott School professors Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer. “When you’ve got a lot of certainty and you know exactly what you want to build, then build it,” Dyer explains. “But if you’re facing any uncertainty, you need to test the assumptions behind your ideas before you ever start building.” And when Dyer says “building,” he’s not just referencing foil-wrapped prototypes. Whether it’s developing a fresh approach for employee training or revamping the family’s chore chart, applying lean start-up principles can help you test the waters and diminish the risks associated with big ideas. “Underneath the process is this question: how fast can you learn about something that you don’t know?” Furr says. So banish the excuses about why you can’t, won’t, or haven’t implemented your great idea. It’s time to take the next step.

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