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Three ways to turn ideas into profitable business

April 02, 2021

Tom Puthiyamadam
Digital Products & Consumer Markets Advisory Leader, PwC US

How to join the winning 5% of product ideas

Great ideas are vital to all businesses — but they’re not especially rare.

But making an idea a reality? Now that’s rare: 95%1 of new products fail. And 90%2 of startup companies never make it. That's not for a lack of ideas. It's a lack of execution: the same reason why people dream of writing a novel, crafting a piece of music, or learning a new language — but never actually do it.

Ideas are glamorous, and they’re often the reason you start a journey. But reaching the destination where your idea becomes a reality is much more difficult. The road between ideas and reality is arduous, uphill and lined with potholes. It can only be overcome through consistent, disciplined steps. It requires commitment, alignment in direction, collaboration between disparate teams, and honest assessments about your idea and how it can be improved.

When we created BXT Works our motivator was to pave this road between ideas and reality. Rooted in BXT, this way of working blends business strategy, creative experiences, and technology. It empowers teams to execute on ideas and efficiently bring them to market. This approach is how PwC is building a $500 million product business in less than three years. And now we’re taking this process to our customers.

Committed companies can quickly turn ideas into high-performing products — even during these unprecedented times. Just look at Lowe’s Innovation Labs3 and their in-home (socially distant) solution, DoorDash’s4 salad robotics initiative or Mercedes-Benz’s5 success in fast-tracking a breathing apparatus to combat the pandemic.

How do you make it happen? Here are three factors that determine whether your innovative idea will become a groundbreaking reality.

1. Put the user first

Invest in the right idea. It’s human nature to become attached to your favorite brainchild. But to elevate the right idea, put yourself in the end user’s shoes. Good product design is a combination of understanding people, translating data and predicting trends. Focus on problems first rather than solutions. A solution that's in search of a problem isn’t often usable.

Take our work with AXS Lab, a company dedicated to building tools and telling the stories of disability through new media, innovation and documentary film. To help the 1.3 billion people living with mobility or vision-related disabilities, AXS Lab launched AXS Map, a crowdsourcing platform powered by Google Maps, allowing people to rate accessibility of locations like train stations, grocery stores, restaurants and coffee shops. This was a real problem that people encountered every day.

The map’s concept was great, but AXS Lab needed help with the tech. That’s when PwC stepped in. We listened to the people who know the problem best, and worked side-by-side with the AXS team and volunteers with disabilities to recreate what can happen when a person with mobility challenges enters a venue. We discovered the rating system had to be objective, uniform and as simple as the map’s usability. Is there a ramp? Room for a wheelchair at every table? Does the restroom door swing out?

AXS Lab was born out of a common problem. And its solution came directly from those who deal with that issue every day. If you can’t envision someone else's experience and truly listen, you won't be able to create a solution that works for them.

2. Get on the same page — and don’t over analyze

The trick to product liftoff is gathering diverse perspectives and getting everyone on the same page. This includes stakeholders that represent different goals across the organization as well as individuals from all levels — from those who interact directly with customers to executives setting the strategic agenda.

Once you have the right folks pulling in the same direction, keep the momentum rolling. The goal is to get buy-in and engagement from everyone. Analysis is good, but action must follow. Too many business leaders get caught in the “paralysis by analysis” stage. They want to make the perfect decision every time.

The truth is our decisions are going to be right or wrong based on factors that are unforeseen to us. That's what makes them difficult decisions. It's better to be decisive and start down a path. You can always adjust, shift or pivot later.

After you've made initial decisions, bring back the decision makers throughout the process to re-evaluate as you build your idea into a product. Ask your team: What decision do we need to make now? What problem are we solving and what does success look like? What will help bring this idea to life? How can we help ensure the product will keep pace with changing consumer behavior?

3. Design to scale — and to pivot

Designed for scale is a buzzy phrase. But it’s also essential to any idea — as any brilliant idea is doomed if it only reaches a limited few.

The faster you can scale, the faster you can revamp your revenue model. With BXT Works, our goal is to go from idea to beta in ten weeks or less. The fuel for speed is team cohesion. As you kick off, make sure you facilitate cohesion by making your ideas clear from the start and align diverse teams, then make sure the teams are bought in and articulate your mission clearly to all stakeholders.

At PwC, we make sure what we’re creating has flexibility — that it can accommodate shifts in customer demands. Things change fast in a COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 world, so you should make sure your product can evolve to cater to consumer needs without a massive overhaul. Designed to scale is great but designed to pivot is even better.

Get comfortable letting go of what doesn’t work instead of hanging on because you’re attached. Evolution is where the magic lies.

To thrive, rally your teams around the same goal and be prepared to evolve rapidly. If you're able to solve problems faster, tap into your people’s collective creativity and keep the end user at the heart of problem solving — you can be well on the path to joining the winning 5%.

This article originally appeared on Tom Puthiyamadam’s LinkedIn.

1. Inc: 95 percent of New Products Fail. Here Are 6 Steps to Make Sure Yours Don't
2. National Business Capital and Services: 2019 small business failure rate: startup statistics by industry
3. The Drum: Lowe’s innovation exec on why it was built for the Covid-era consumer
4. Tech Crunch: DoorDash acquires salad-making robotics startup, Chowbotics
5. The Conversation: Coronavirus: inside story of how Mercedes F1 and academics fast-tracked life saving breathing aid