3 Destructive Distractions That Every Entrepreneur Should Avoid

Published Originally on Entrepreneur.com 

3 Destructive Distractions That Every Entrepreneur Should Avoid
Image credit: Rennett | Stowe
Distraction comes in several forms for entrepreneurs. It can arise from not having the ability and resolve to say no or from taking on too much too soon or not being organized for success. More important than a good idea is the ability to execute on it.

Being able to protect yourself and your team from the following three distractions can go a long way in ensuring your venture prospers:

1. Self-inflicted scope creep.

Scope creep, in any form, is dangerous. But the worst kind is the one that entrepreneurs impose on themselves. Self-inflicted scope creep can happen under two circumstances

Entrepreneurs should be careful to not misinterpret requirements or use cases from their customers in a way so their plans overreach and attempt to solve issues outside what’s absolutely necessary.

In addition entrepreneurs often become distracted by excitement that comes with building something fresh or adding a cool new features to a product. This zeal can often hide the real problem at hand and can prompt the entrepreneur to gloss over better, cheaper or more suitable ways for solving a problem. In the pursuit of new technology and bigger, better features, valuable time and resources can get lost.

The discipline to avoid self-inflicted scope creep does not come easy can can often take years to develop. Here are some tips to develop this discipline:

Write down use cases in the words of your users.

Perform a root-cause analysis of the problem.

Do a desired-state analysis.

Brainstorm about ways to solving the problem for your customers.

Test the solution’s concept with real users.

2. Fragmented mindshare across multiple initiatives.

Another common distraction for startup leaders is attempting to have the same team focus on multiple large initiatives at the same time. Fragmenting the thought processes of staffers across different complex problems reduces their ability to function and deliver results.

This lack of central focus prolongs the problem solving for the projects and forces team members to make tradeoffs across all initiatives to try to progress in parallel across all fronts. Staffers also pay a high price when they switch their context as they move between these diverse initiatives.

Here are some tips to detect when you might be in this situation:

You are attempting to solve multiple distinct problems.

All at the same time, you’re addressing the needs of distinct segments of users and use cases.

You’re building several complex, multifaceted value propositions simultaneously.

The people who are finding solutions are working on all problems at once.

3. A disorganized operation.

A frequently occurring distraction crops up in a disorganized enterprise. Given that time is limited, entrepreneurs are tasked with not only dealing with multiple issues at once but also leading their teams to make progress.

With aggressive growth, organizations can evolve organically and this can lead to multiple centers of power or expertise on the same or similar features or technologies. Disorganization can lead to multiple parallel efforts to solve the same or similar problems.

Here are some tips to ensure that you’re organized for success:

Organize around primary customer use cases and tasks.

Ensure a consistent user experience across your product’s surface area.

Overcommunicate and develop shared goals when multiple teams are tasked with building similar components and experiences.

4 Strategies for Making Your Product ‘Smarter’

Originally Published on Entrepreneur.com

“Smart” is the dominant trend in the area of entrepreneurship and innovation. In recent times, a plethora of new products have arrived that make an existing product “smarter” by incorporating sensors, connecting the product to their backend or adding intelligence in the product. Reimagining existing products to be smarter and better for the end user is a gold mine for innovation. Here are four ways to rethink your products and make them smarter.

1. Understand user intent and motivations.

Make your products smarter by making it listen and understand the intent of your user. What is the user trying to do at a given time or at a given location on a specific channel? By listening for signals that motivate the usage of your product, and accounting for how variations in these signals change how your product is used, you can predict and influence how your product should adjust to better serving the end user.

For example, a smart refrigerator can detect the contents, match it against the required ingredients for a decided dinner menu and remind the user to restock a certain missing ingredient.

2. Reach users at the right time.

You can make your products smarter by reaching the user at the right time with the right message, even if the user is not using the product at a given point in time. Making the product aware of the user’s environment offers the opportunity to craft a personalized message to enhance the user experience. You can then motivate and influence the user to use the product at the opportune time in the manner that is most beneficial for both the user and the product.

For example, a smart app can detect the user’s location in a particular grocery aisle and alert them an item they need to replace is on sale.

3. Enable good decisions.

Smart products help the user make the best decisions. By understanding the user’s context and their current environment, you can suggest alternatives, recommend choices or simply notify them of changes in their environment they might otherwise not have noticed. This capability enables the user to make informed choices and decisions, thus enhancing their experience and satisfaction from the product.

For example, by integrating traffic signals in a navigation system, the user can be notified of alternate routes when there are problems in their usual route.

4. Enhance user experience.

You can make your products smarter by enhancing the user’s experience, regardless of where they are in their journey with your product. If they are a new user, your product should help them onboard. If they are an active user, your product should make them more productive. If they are a dissatisfied user, your product should detect their dissatisfaction and offer the appropriate support and guidance to help them recover. In parallel, the product should learn from their situation and use this feedback in redesigning or refactoring the product.

For example, a product company that performs sentiment analysis on their twitter stream is able to swiftly detect user discontent and feed that into their support ticketing system for immediate response and follow up.

The ability to collect telemetry of how your product is being used, use sensors to detect the environment in which it is being used and use customer usage history in the backend to understand user intent has the potential to reinvigorate your existing products to be smarter and more beneficial for their users. Similarly, reimagining or innovating using the above principles offers entrepreneurs the opportunity to disrupt current products and markets and ride the “smart” wave to success.