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Starting Over with Value Parameters

One of the hardest things to do if you’re a startup is to start over. Apart from the emotional and financial hardship, you have to figure out what really went wrong in your current venture and take the lessons to your next one. Thinking in value parameters makes that process a little bit easier.

You may be finding yourself looking at starting over for any number of reasons, especially in these times. Current wisdom says you should consider a pivot. But with ten different kinds of pivots to work through, it's not exactly easy to figure out which pivot is the one for you when emotions are running high, and even more so if it is your first do-over. Use value parameters in a situation like this.

The idea is this: when re-thinking your business, skip the part about pivoting altogether and instead, imagine your customer already using your future product. Actually, imagine they've been using your product for a while and are recommending it to a friend. Describe what it is they are saying they love about your product. These statements contain the value parameters of your product, the stuff they truly find valuable, the reasons they keep coming back to it, and are the first steps to reshaping your product.

This imagining is not a flight of fantasy, however, and does not work if you're in denial. It only works if you have studied the flaws and dysfunctions of your current product and really care about solving this problem for your customer. For instance, imagine you are creating a social media platform from scratch that reverses the polarization of the current platforms ( you really should ) and begin listing the reasons your customers would give to friends to return to the platform, again and again. These might be:

“I feel I can meet people different from me

“I feel I can control what I see and change the tone of it”

“I feel I am in the company of people who force me to consider different perspectives

“I feel the feed lets me feel more fully informed on one topic

“I feel I have full control over my data and how it's used

“I feel the advertising is coming from a trusted source

“I feel I/we can choose how we are advertised to

Each of these statements contains a value parameter (in bold). In sculptural terms, these value parameters, taken together, are the shape of your solution; the wireframes on which you throw and mold your clay: the code the makes it come alive. Think of this as your minimum lovable product.

These parameters make themselves known in the choices you make at every level of your solution, from whether you provide your customers with a way to control their feeds to how the algorithm behaves. Simple? Yes. Powerful? Even more so. Once you know your value parameters, the next step is to craft your new bet for your new direction so you always have a true north as you dive into the details of your new venture.

In summary, value parameters are an alternative to pivots when starting over. They are the reasons you imagine your customers tell their friends they return to your product, time and again. To state these you need to know your product and its dysfunctions, as well as care for your customer's well-being.

Value parameters keep you honest, provided you take a position of benevolence towards your customers. I hope you do. As a startup, you have enormous power in shaping the choices and psychology of your customer; wield it to improve their lives. We need it now, more than ever.

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