Ninjas vs Wannabes

cartoon-ninjasI’ve just finished up the Spring 2015 Session of Getting2Alpha . We’ve now run 18 teams through this innovative online design program. Our teams came from Israel, Malaysia, South Africa, Australia, Great Britain – as well as the metro USA (NYC, SF, LA).

All the teams shared a thirst for actionable techniques to turbo-charge early product design — and a desire to apply the deeper power of gaming to their projects. Some were serial entrepreneurs, others were first-time startup founders – and some were experienced business people new to high-tech product development.

Looking back across the results achieved by these teams, I’m struck by the difference between Product Ninjas & Product Wannabes.

Product Ninjas know what goes into “making the sausage” and they actively embrace the power of constraints & focus.

Product Wannabes often have deep expertise in other areas – but they’ve never shipped a product or game, and come to product development from the outside looking in.

To be blunt, Wannabes don’t know what they don’t know. Like most people who’ve used – but not created – high-tech products and games, they vastly underestimate what goes into actually creating & shipping something successful.

In our program, the teams who most struggled with — and questioned — the strategic focus and design constraints of Getting2Alpha were Product Wannabes. They wanted to pursue the “big idea” — and had a hard time focusing on something small and specific enough to be an MVP (minimum viable product).

By contrast, Product Ninjas quickly absorbed and deployed the Getting2Alpah techniques — and actively embraced the strategic focus of our Before & After MVP Canvas. I didn’t hear ANY pushback from those teams – just clarifying questions — and then the hum of work getting done.

I also noticed some exceptions to the rule. A couple of Getting2Alpha teams were led by first-time entrepreneurs who’d never shipped a product – but actively embraced constraints and strategic focus, figured out how to translate big ideas into small actionable experiments, and consequently made rapid progress. These leaders BEHAVED like Product Ninjas – even though they lacked the background. They were open-minded and results-oriented enough to absorb and deploy the Getting2Alpha framework. In effect, they transitioned from Wannabe to Ninja right before my eyes.

We’re now harvesting what we’ve learned — and revamping the program to tightly focus on our core clients: smart, driven, results-oriented entrepreneurs worldwide who need to turbo-charge their path to product/market fit. If this sounds like you, checkout Getting2Alpha — and signup for a introductory call to discuss your project.

I’ll share more lessons learned over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!