How to Brainstorm a Startup Idea That Doesn’t Suck

Most startup ideas suck. Every startup founder wants to believe that their idea is really great.

The truth is that great startup ideas are not aha moments, they are refined by learning.

Before you build anything, you need to try this method to refine your idea and understand your customer.

Idea: Uber for haircuts

Let’s take this rough startup idea and refine it. We have this idea that we can use technology to help improve the experience of getting a haircut.

Identify the audience for your idea

Before you get started with this method you’ll need to know your audience well. Hopefully you’ve already done some of the work to eliminate risk from your idea.

You should have a customer persona in mind. Maybe you’ve even documented the persona.

For our Uber for haircuts example, let’s look at mens haircuts. For no other reason than it’s what I know best.

Map your customer’s journey

This exercise can be done alone or collaboratively with a group. We’re going to map out the journey of your customer.

We will use this process to identify the highs and lows of your customer’s journey.

Start with two axes

Start by simply drawing two axes (x and y, not the tool) on a whiteboard or piece of paper.

Now place a happy face above the x-axis and sad face below the y-axis. It should look like this:

journey-line-blank

The x-axis is time. The y-axis is happiness. Now let’s map the customer journey.

Map their journey step-by-step

Now is the really fun part. We’re going to think through the steps to getting a haircut. Don’t think about solutions.

Focus on the journey. You want to map every step to getting a haircut. Make sure to have empathy for the customer.

List the steps:

  1. Realizing that he needs a haircut
  2. He walks into the salon for a walk-in appointment
  3. Waits for next available stylist
  4. Reads magazines while waiting
  5. His name is called
  6. Explains his desired hair cut to the stylist
  7. Stylist cuts his hair
  8. Stylist washes his hair
  9. He pays for his haircut

Now that we have a list of steps the guy goes through to cut and style his hair, let’s map them to our journey line.

Our goal is to take each step of the process and map it against a happiness scale. How happy or unhappy does each step make him feel?

journey-line-complete

Don’t just work with your own assumptions. Use customer feedback to learn and refine this journey line.

Interpreting the results

Now that we have a completed journey line. Let’s use this as our map to brainstorm and refine our business idea.

The low points give us new ideas to improve the experience.

Chances are the low points are where your original idea came from. The scheduling of haircuts is definitely a point of unhappiness in our example.

Be on the look out for even better ideas. Can you cut some steps out of the experience? Is there a very unhappy point that you hadn’t realized before?

The high points tell us what drives joy.

Use the high points just as much as the low points. The high points tell us what points in the customer journey are delightful experiences.

Being aware of what drives customer joy can help you enhance those experiences.

Build a successful startup by focusing on your customer

This journey line exercise can be used to eliminate risk from your startup idea and make sure your idea doesn’t suck.

Don’t even have an idea yet? Stop racking your brain and use this method to find new ideas. Follow the same process by picking any industry or customer persona.

What methods have you used to refine your idea? Let me know on twitter @chrisredrich or in the comments below.

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