Designing New Products? Try Constraints!

What if you could create an information product (you know, like an eBook) in a single sitting? Crazy, isn't it? But I just recently watched a webinar where the presenter explained how he did it. His rationale? Once he got up from the desk, he was likely to get distracted and that would immediately reduce (virtually to nil) his chances of publishing the product he'd been working on.

Another person I spoke with today was thinking about re-doing their entire product. The scope sounded huge. So we talked about shrinking the focus. Because sometimes we make things far more complicated than they need to be.

Constraints are you friend.

My Own Experiment

I started embracing constraints two decades ago by chance. It was one of those crazy dynamics where we were 12 days away from a national software convention and my boss wondered (out loud) if there was any chance we could have a working prototype of the product we'd been brainstorming by the show.

Mind you, it wasn't for production. We'd just demo it to whet their appetites. So we started asking ourselves what absolutely had to go into the prototype (we never called it a product), and what didn't.

We made that call in two days and spent the next ten building the baseline prototype. It was enough to show people what could be possible.

Will it surprise you that my boss sold it to three customers for a total of $450,000? Seriously. He did!

And it was because it looked complete enough to suggest it was a full-fledged product. He even booked my flight out to Chicago and then Raleigh so that I could install the “product” at their sites. Crazy but true.

Mind you, this was a long time ago in a different world and in the enterprise space (where customers liked to shape their installations anyway).

But the point is that we generated that revenue in 10 days because we made tough decisions in tight time constraints.

So here's the question

I've written before, the question that made it crystal clear to me.

“What would we have to do to bring next year's revenue into this year?”

What I heard in that question wasn't that question. Instead, what I heard was, “What are you gaining by giving yourself so much time?”

Another way to put it – what are you losing because you've given yourself too much time? What if you decided that your next product would have to be done in the next 48 hours? What if you had to pull it off in 24 hours? What if you had no more than 2 hours? What would you do?

Constraints help you focus

I have a friend who had the making of a great product. But she never pushed it out. Maybe you've heard me talk about it. I registered a silly domain name, set up an ugly site, and then asked her to write the sales page copy while I was stepping away for a phone call.

When I came back, we built the baseline of the site in a few hours.

It was ugly enough that she spent the next few days fixing it. But within a week, guess what? She had a real site, with a real domain, and a real sales page.

And that focus drove her to create multiple new revenues streams. She's doing really well now. But it all started with a little bit of a push and tight time constraints.

The most important part? Time wasn't what she needed. She could have been on the sidelines for another few years.

How can constraints help you?

I've written before about how to give and get advice. Now I want to challenge you with some quick advice. It comes in the form of four questions for you.

  1. What would you have to include if you wanted to only sell it to friends?
  2. What would you include if you were only going to charge a small fee?
  3. What would you have to build if you wanted to introduce your concept?
  4. What would you have to create if you only had one week?

I know. It's crazy to only give yourself one week. But like I told you yesterday, life and business is like poker. You're making bets. And to make a bet, you have to sit at the table and put your money down. You can't make a bet when you're standing next to the casino table watching others bet.

Let me end with this question: What is holding you back from starting?

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