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When an entrepreneur dreams up a new product opportunity and launches their start-up, they are surrounded with advice on the steps to follow:
- Define the customer problem or job to be done
- Develop a minimum viable product as a solution
- Prove product-market fit by winning customer support
- Validate scalability, unit economics, etc…
While these steps are relevant and useful, they can create an unduly linear view of the path to success.
Success is never a simple straight line.
Discussing start-up and new product success in this way creates the impression that the path to market looks a little like this:
A relatively direct relationship between product and market might work for some simple product solutions, particularly those involved in offering a new product direct to consumers. However, lean start-up has reminded us that success takes loops of learning and iteration to find that match between product and market.
Help customers embrace change (despite resistance).
When you start to work on more complex solutions that involve systemic change or large changes in buyer behaviour, buyers can acknowledge the need and the value of the solution but still offer resistance. These buyers cannot simply buy the product. They must also decide to embrace disruptive change to long established ways of working. Disruptive business-to-business products require changes to systems, processes or jobs and have other implications for their target customers. Strong institutional forces will exist that are opposed to change. To realise the benefits, the customer needs to be prepared for a wider and more significant change.
Declining systems give way to new ways of working.
The Berkana Institute has a theory of change in large scale systems highlighting resistance will prevent straight-line adoption of new change. If the change threatens the current way things work, you won’t get direct adoption. Change under this approach may happen when the current system declines, giving way to a better system that will replace it. That new, better system is developed outside the current system as a small group of innovators name the need for change, connect in networks, nourish the new change and bring it forward as a new approach.
Disruption brings change and creates new markets.
The Berkana Two Loops model of change gives us a new way to look at the path for disruptive products that bring about major changes in organisational systems. If we consider the introduction of cloud computing technologies as the introduction of an alternative systemic approach to technology, we can map it against this model.
- At first, traditional technology organisations saw cloud services as a threat to their traditional model and particularly the end-to-end control of infrastructure.
- Cloud services grew with new and innovative organisations, in grey market IT and at the edges of organisations. This gave the new cloud services time to clarify the problems and use cases, develop the new approaches and connect the first customers. The communities of early customers helped the solutions to mature and foster the underpinning systems of delivery, management and support. Communities of practice grew up around these technologies and created a range of tools and processes that helped cloud computing become enterprise-ready.
- Eventually, a wide range of organisations are prepared to ‘leap the chasm’, seeing potential to migrate to these new cloud systems and embrace a very different way of working.
This approach of creating a new market for a new solution is why we commonly see disruptive technologies suddenly race into prominence. They have been long fostered by the communities of early innovators and have built the networks of partners, ecosystems and systems to propel rapid growth. They are examples of ‘seven-year overnight successes’.
Build a strong ‘ecosystem of relationships’ to bring about change.
At LanternPay, we have seen this scenario playing out. We have had strong support from our work with innovative early customers in plan management in the NDIS and in government payments with the Transport Accident Commission of Victoria and Lifetime Support Authority of South Australia. These relationships have helped us to develop strong growth in provider partnerships. Importantly, we have focused all along on the potential of an ecosystem of relationships to accelerate innovative change well beyond payments in our target systems of health care, aged care and disability. This approach has delivered us a rapidly growing pipeline of new payer relationships, a growing suite of integrations and a product roadmap across all our target markets. Each element helps make the change decision for a provider or a payer that much easier to make.
Simon Terry is consultant, speaker and start-up advisor who focuses on developing the strategy, leadership and collaboration to deliver complex innovation in organisations. He also puts these skills into practice delivering growth strategy for LanternPay, a claim payment platform for health care, aged care, disability and government payments.