Hooking young people on entrepreneurship

The entrepreneurial process starts with a problem. The design process starts with empathy.

But neither of those phases are the exciting part. For a student who’s never experienced the process of creation, pulling the reigns back and directing to interview potential customers is a major bummer. It’s a necessary part of the process, but many people often get stuck there.

How many people fall into entrepreneurship is that they have an idea. They want to make something. Though, they have no evidence the world wants that thing. There are two choices with what you say to the wide eyed kid who wants to make their idea happen: 1. Go ahead. or 2. Start with the problem.

Like I’ve said before, “start with the problem” is discouraging and sometimes prevents people from action all together. Inherent in my thesis that there is a better suggestion is that action is superior to inaction. Even a failed outcome is better than no action.

While “start with the problem” isn’t ideal, neither is “go ahead.” Often the ideas people want to build are huge. They would take years to produce, thousands of dollars and excessive time. I don’t think it’s wise to wish wasting those resources upon anyone. A long development process is sometimes necessary, but you have to at least have confirmation that you’re building the right thing first and for that you need to talk to stakeholders.

If neither of these two pieces of advice are good, what’s the alternative? Here’s where we’ve settled with Dual School and what I believe to be the best stance: prototype it as fast as possible. It’s okay to skip the empathy and customer interview phase. Act on your hunch, but build something quick, cheap and simple. Start an email list, write a blog post, make a Facebook group. Use existing tools to piece together a solution.

Take action and test your assumptions. After all that, you’ll either feel motivated to learn more about your customers, or ready to keep building because your hunch was correct. Either way, you have the momentum from all that action you took.

There are processes that help make entrepreneurs more effective, but if people aren’t willing to follow them, we need another way to get them hooked. My guess is that progress, action and momentum are those hooks.

So feel free to skip the interviews. Build it fast, cheap and start learning.