The Experimental Mindset

A lesson in early assumptions and validation.

When you’re starting a business you can easily become overwhelmed with what to do and when to do it. This feeling can be paralyzing. And it prevents a lot of would-be successful entrepreneurs with a great idea, from getting started. This is why it’s essential to adopt an “experimental mindset.”

“You don’t need to know enough to finish,” explains Katie Underwood from our Product Traction team, ''you just need to know enough to start.”

“It’s liberating,” says Katie of this way of thinking. “Not only do you not have to know all the answers up front before you start doing things, you’re actually going to get a better result if you embrace that you’re always going to be learning new information and gathering new insights that you can feed back into the product you’re building.”

“You don’t need to know enough to finish, you just need to know enough to start.” --- Katie Underwood, Thin Air Labs Product Traction

It’s a useful headspace that helps founders go from a great idea, to a great business, says Rosemary Sanchez, also with Product Traction team. “Dreaming of how to do something doesn’t help you grow. You’ve got to build something so you can test it with your customers.”  

So, what exactly is this mindset?

“When we [founders] have a hypothesis about something that we think is going to work,” says Katie, “then we can ask: what’s the information we need to get to validate this hypothesis? Usually, the only way to get that information is to put something in the hands of the customer and test our assumptions. We get the information, then feed it back into our process.”

Creating a feedback loop of assumption and validation offers essential insight that can help founders build their company step by informed step.

The experimental mindset also helps founders stay curious and surface their own biases, says Rosemary.

“You might have an understanding of a need, of a goal a customer might have, but there’s so many things that you might not know. So it’s very important to know your customer and know what their objectives are. As humans, we’ve developed a bunch of biases about how things will go which is good for our survival but those biases may also mean we’re blind to certain things.”

But staying curious and continually iterating on your idea based on customer feedback and insight, reveals biases and blockers founders may never have thought of. This type of thinking improves the odds of the business becoming successful because venture building is risky. There’s no roadmap to refer to or handbook to read. But maintaining an experimental mindset allows you to get the information you need to offset some of that risk and build in a better way.  

“Dreaming of how to do something doesn’t help you grow. You’ve got to build something so you can test it with your customers.” --- Rosemary Sanchez, Thin Air Labs Product Traction

“Knowing that you’re going to learn as you go, and that this is a desirable way to move forward, allows you to get started and get the wheels moving on something you can get into the market. This mindset is a very powerful tool to help you make better decisions about your business,” says Katie.

Rosemary agrees. It’s a tool that allows founders to get out of their own way.

“It’s essential to have an open mind, a curiosity to challenge your biases and understand the customer outcomes you’re hoping to achieve. Match those with business outcomes, then you’ve got a really innovative, disruptive, kickass product or service.”

And the trick? To keep employing the experimental mindset as your business grows. It’s useful for getting started, but also for continued growth.

“Experimenting on a continuous basis, rather than just at the end of a long development cycle, allows you to continually make the best decisions for your business at any given moment,” says Katie. “You’re reducing guesswork.”

“If you embrace the experimental mindset continually,” adds Rosemary, “you can stay up to date when the environment or sentiment changes. This change can then become an opportunity, not a threat.”

Allowing founders to blow past any competitors and #BuildWhatsNext.

Build what's next with us