We thought we had the plan in a bag. We had a value prop, we had just figured out our burn rate with well calculated dollars to run the business. Then, we stepped into class and with helpful prodding from Christina realized we weren’t really that different from everyone else out there doing this. : /

Back to the drawing board.

Literally we went back to the whiteboard, and said let’s look at what we have again, and see what we can do to really introduce something innovative to this market. It wasn’t really back to square one because we are still floating on excellent insights from our research, we just needed a push to do something that breaks the mold.

We can do this.

But, not without some decent work. Back to whiteboards, sticky notes, brainstorming… Think of some great ideas. Speak with a leader in the design world, and have reality hit us over the head. As I asked David Merkoski about consultancy models, he rained about 15 examples of firms struggling with this same question. Thanks for the wisdom, David.

But… we have something the seniors in the industry don’t have. We are starting this from scratch, so we don’t have the same paradigm constraints of how things should be. Hopefully we have a bit of beginners’ luck on our side too. We also learned that in a matter of a month we have run through all the consultancy models the experts out there have tried. We are grateful for the accelerated learning from user research. The pioneers of the industry have done an excellent job helping the world understand the importance of user experience design, which puts us in a position of needing to rethink how to be valuable to this audience that is losing the need for the same outside agency model as they integrate in house design more and more.

In our next team meeting we ranked the tools and our specific qualities that we could grow this idea out of. I got sidetracked by an idea that I thought would be spectacular. We have Benefit Corps; why not Benefit Consultancy? I pushed the idea of a Sustainability consultancy pretty hard in the meeting. On my two hour drive home (my thinking time) I began to realize that I was pushing a product without prioritizing the needs and insights from our research. As much as I would love to carry sustainability to the world, no one we talked to is specifically asking for that. We agree it needs to be an obvious element of our reputation, but a model built entirely around it was not the answer to the problem. At least… not yet. I cal dibs for still starting a Sustainability consultancy in the future. Maybe we’ll be ready for that in this industry in 5 years. Major lesson learned was to just write the idea down and let it go until it makes sense to discuss it in depth, but a brainstorming session is not the time for that.

One more long meeting and things started paying off. I’ll tell you about it next week. : )