How to know you have a winning idea that will generate results

You got a great idea to use AI in your product. You see this as your ticket to fame, fortune and a good life.

It may sound cringeworthy to say this, but you really believe that your idea is the one.

Most people start with a strong conviction for their ideas. Ideas are great to get you to turn the ignition on, but it doesn’t always mean it will take you to your destination. Ideas are the future imagined, not appearing real or in existence yet. With a high start-up failure rate, many ideas don’t make it through. 

I once read that ideas are often not unique. Every moment someone else is also thinking about your exact same idea somewhere in the world as well. And ideas are often repeated in communities that are not diverse in thoughts. In places like Silicon Valley, where tech communities often look and think alike, investors will likely hear someone pitch the same idea at least twice a week. Even when your idea is popular, it doesn’t mean that it will create a successful product or service.

Sometimes we can get caught up in the romantic period and the honeymoon phase with our idea. We miss the warning signs that are telling us that there will be a big storm ahead. 

You can avoid investing in ideas that don’t propel you to your goals. Like playing poker, you want to put down the card that you think has a high probability of winning. There are ways you can identify if you have a winner before you start.

AI is not always the solution to the problem

We often take our focus away from the problem we are trying to solve because we want to be part of a movement where investors love anything with AI. So we focus on AI and build our idea around it.

Perhaps,  we picked up the idea of using AI from another domain. “I’m going to make a ChatGPT for doctors.” Yes, as exciting as that may be, that’s not the correct way. You need to be thinking about the fundamentals of business. 

People buy or use products and services because there is an element of dissatisfaction with where they are. They want it fixed, and something about your product and services allows them to fix that problem or get closer to their goal. Not everything in life has the same level of urgency to fix or make it better. The more urgent and prevalent the problem is to some people, hopefully, lots of people, the better your chances that the idea will stick.

You may be missing out on the fact that there are other ideas that should be explored for fixing the problem. AI may not be the best solution. In the example of the ChatGPT for doctors, doctors are overworked; as a result, customer services take the least priority. Your idea of ChatGPT for doctors was to help both the doctor and the patient. The doctor gets less workload, and the patient gets their answers met. ChatGPT may not be solving the core issue for the patient. People really want to receive empathy for what they are experiencing. They value a real medical doctor who can empathize with their challenging health issues. They prefer to talk to someone. Not a robot. The adoption of ChatGPT may fail in this situation.

You will need to learn to compete

Know that you can’t rely on AI to make your solution the only option every user wants. You can’t compete when the recipe for building AI models is so widely available. 

The true leaders in the AI space have spent years collecting data. They also have the advantage of holding millions of data to train an AI system to better performance and results. So know that it will take you time to achieve an equal level of success.

For the average person, unless they have millions of dollars in investment today, it is hard. It’s not impossible, but it does require someone who is patient.

You need a problem so desperate that AI is an attractive option worth the wait. Or you need to find other unique advantages to make your product top in line.

Don’t start with an idea

We want to be looking at the problem space and getting very familiar with the problem area to the point that we can intuitively know how the ecosystem works and operates. 

Problems are what bring business results. 

There is a myth that people like Steve Jobs skipped talking to people using customer discovery and intuitively had an idea about the smartphone that became a major success. There are a lot of rumours about him not relying on market research. All of these are not true. Steve Jobs relied on market insights to gather data about problems people experienced with their iPhone and iPod music players. He knew that people wouldn’t be able to conceptualize the idea of a smartphone. Smartphones never existed so people would never suggest it, and most consumers may not have known what was technically possible.

Today people are now aware or have the knowledge of what is technically possible with AI. They can only advise on things that they are familiar with or within the boundaries of how they see the world. But you don’t want to rely on ideas. You want to be solving problems.

You need to understand the issues they see as a priority and build the solution to fix them. That’s precisely what Steve Jobs did with the iPhone.

Don’t be married to your idea

The basic principles of business tell us that people buy for change. People gravitate to things they desire to take from one point to another: where they are to where they want to be. The desire is the solution to their current problem. 

Find problems through people you know well, either from work, hobbies or personal experiences. Get clear on the issues people discuss and why they bother or frustrate them. Find out why nothing else is working. AI may be the best solution to fix it, but it may also not.

Avoid starting with an idea and trying to solve a problem. You’ll end up in a situation where you are going through trial and error. You’ll spend more time finding someone with a problem to fit your idea.

Universities are notorious for this. Much research happens in the university lab, but they don’t amount to anything in the real world. Universities fail to start with problems happening outside of their labs to develop successful solutions and patents.

Start with a problem, not your idea, and you’ll be heading in the right direction.