Steve Blank’s blog is awesome but its latest post is very well timed for me: it talks about customer validation. Customer discovery is understanding who has problems that you can solve. But customer validation confirms that these are problems that people could and would pay to solve them. Blank’s four golden questions are:
- Did the customers know they had a problem?
- If so, did they want to change the way they were doing things to solve that problem?
- If so, how much would they pay to solve the problem?
- Would they write us a Purchase Order now before our supercomputer was even complete, to be the first to solve their problems?
These are all questions I asked when considering the lead customers for my start-up, but I did so accidentally. Furthermore, only in retrospect is it clear to me the time I would have saved if I had asked these four questions to all the hospitals we approached. I had also felt irritated when talking to investors who wanted to talk to my early customers. But on reading Blank’s blog post I now understand that they wanted to ask questions like these, and that this was a valuable thing for all of us.
The crime of reason: And the closing of the scientific mind is a book that has gripped me since I heard the author discuss it in a podcast with the lovely Dr Moira Gunn. It central message is a sad one for me as the book describes, in detail, why modern society is dismantling the freedom of scientific inquiry. Worse still, the book also describes why such dismantling is necessary.
I must quote this story from the book though which gave me such warm feelings about physicists, bless them:
In March 1986, Las Vegas newspapers buzzed with rumors that the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino had suffered its worst weekly take in history – including the week of its terrible fire. MGM had made the mistake of hosting a big physics conference. The scientists, it turned out, didn’t care for neon cowboys, tiger shows, topless barmaids and other distractions. In fact, they complained after returning home that these things had interfered with their concentration at seminars. Vegas cabbies got real mileage from this story and presumably generous tips too. No Las Vegas hotel has ever invited the physicists back.
I am saving a rant about the excesses of evidence-based medicine for another day, but first, I am reading a hilarious about what we can learn from an Amazonian tribe. The Piraha tribe’s language includes a laudable emphasis on searching for evidence behind each statement. The book, Don’t sleep, there are Snakes, is by Daniel Everett who went to live with the tribe as a Christian missionary and returned… an atheist.
Here is a quote from a lecture he gave explaining why it was they who converted him. It is worth listening to Everett’s amusing rendition.
Three suffixes are very important, and they tell you how you got your evidence. So every verb has to have on it the source of the evidence. Did you hear about it, did you see it with your own eyes, or did you deduce it from the local evidence. So if I say “Did John go fishing?”, they can say “John went fishing pee-eye”, which means “I heard that he did”, or they can say “John went finishing sibiga”, and that means “I deduced that he did”, or they can say “John went fishing tah”, and that means I saw.
In some respects they are the ultimate empiricists. Or, like people from Missouri, The Show Me State.
Part of this culture value of the Piraha, the immediacy of experience, is reflected in this word imitpeeo, produces a value to keep information slow, and to keep it verifiable. It must be witnessed.
So, as a Christian Missionary, which I no longer am, and if you read the book, you will find out what they did to me. They actually demanded evidence for what I believed. And then I realised I couldn’t give it as well as they wanted me to give it. So this changed me profoundly.
But I remember telling them about Jesus one time. So they said, “So Dan, this Jesus, is he brown like us or is he white like you?”
- “I don’t know, I haven’t seen him.”
- “So what did your dad say, your dad must have seen him.”
- “No, he never saw him.”
- “Well what did your friends say who saw him?”
- “I don’t know anybody who saw him.”
- “Why are you telling us about him then?”