It’s Halloween week! The pumpkins are carved, the candy bowl is full, and the neighborhood is about to be crawling with princesses, ninja turtles, and pirates.
You’ve only got one last thing to do before the fun begins. You promised your neighbors hot apple cider – with rum, of course.
Being a good neighbor, you want to make sure that your cider is a hit. What do you do?
Design Question: How do I make the best apple cider?
You might start by browsing the highest-rated recipes.
If like me, you live in San Francisco, you might head over to Smuggler’s Cove for inspiration.
Or you might brew up a couple of different recipes and invite a neighbor or two over for some taste-testing.
In all three scenarios, you already know what you want to make – apple cider. As you research recipes, seek inspiration, and experiment with taste-testing, you are asking a design question: What is the best way to make apple cider?
Feasibility Question: Can I make this particular recipe?
Now suppose you are at Smuggler’s Cove and you fall in love with their apple cider. You decide this is the one.
As you slyly observe the bartender as he make your next serving, you notice he picks up a tall, slim bottle of rum that you don’t recognize. So you turn to Google.
Unfortunately, the bottle goes for a cool $200. You like your neighbors, but not that much.
You ask yourself, “Can I really afford to make this recipe?”
This is a feasibility question.
Instead of giving up, you think maybe I can get my neighbors to contribute. You send out an email asking for donations.
This is a feasibility experiment.
Feature Question: Is apple cider even the right solution?
One of your neighbors responds and says, “I’m allergic to apples. How about hot butter rum instead?”
Uh oh. Now you have to question whether apple cider is even the right solution.
This is a feature question.
You respond to this new request by asking everyone else, “Is anyone else allergic to apples? Or prefer hot butter rum?” This is a feature test.
You anxiously await the responses. You’ve only got two days left. Should you start looking at hot butter rum recipes?
Value Question: Do my neighbors even want a hot beverage?
Another neighbor replies and says, “I just checked the weather report. It’s supposed to be 90 degrees until about 10pm. Do we even want hot beverages?”
This question stops you in your tracks. Instead of rushing off to explore hot butter rum recipes, you need to take a step back and ask, what problem are you solving? What value are you offering to your neighbors?
If your goal is to deliver a tasty warm beverage to keep your neighbors warm, you may have just learned that this isn’t a problem worth solving.
If instead, your goal is to help your neighbors keep a nice buzz going while they chase their kids up and down the block, you might need to consider different solutions.
Walking Up and Down the Different Levels of Analysis
This is a silly examples, but it illustrates how fluidly you have to move up and down the levels of product analysis as you explore problems and solutions.
When you hit your first roadblock – the expensive rum – it might be easy to call the whole thing off. But if instead you realize this is a feasibility issue with your current design, you can explore other designs.
When you hit your second roadblock – the neighbor who is allergic to apples – you again might want to call the whole thing off. But if instead you realize that you might just have the wrong solution, you can start to explore alternatives.
And finally, when the value gets called into question, once again you can choose to give up or you can explore whether or not you are solving the right problem.
Moving down each level gets you closer to a solution you can implement. But when you hit a roadblock, move up a level to explore alternatives.
It’s Your Turn
Take a minute to consider what you are working on. How does this apply? Do you need to move up or down the levels of analysis?
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