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Why The Greatest Entrepreneurs Think Like Scientists

Entrepreneur stressed at work
Milkos on Deposit Photos

Entrepreneurs are truly mad scientists. Not only do they bend that fine line between genius and insanity, they often use the scientific method that we all learned in elementary school. Whether they know it or not, most businesses observe a problem, create a hypothesis, test it, gain results, and conclude findings.

From the classroom to the customer

This connection between the scientific method and the process of starting a company became clear to me in college, when I took an entrepreneurship class that enabled everyone to get into the entrepreneurial mindset. Our first project in class was to start a venture. We had to form a team, spend $20 at the scrapbook store, and create a product that people would be willing to buy. In short, we had no idea what we were doing.

After playing around with a few ideas, we found some blankets lying around and decided to rent them for people to keep warm during football games or waiting in line to go to the bar. Even though the product wasn’t innovative, the idea and convenience provided value, as we knew from our own experience.

In the fall, Ann Arbor gets really cold, especially at night. When anyone one of us would go out we would find ourselves wishing for something to keep us warm. This was the first step of the scientific method in which we observed the problem.

The next thing that we did was asked a few people who usually go to football games, or the bar whether they would rent a blanket at a certain price. From asking our primary market to whom we would rent, we then tried it out. This is Customer Discovery; where we collected our information to formulate our hypothesis.

After our team tested our hypothesis, we started to adjust how much we would charge, and where we would offer our services. This helped to optimize our venture so that we could maximize our earnings opportunities. It was crucial that our team continually learn from some of the changes that we would make: what we learned from the changes is the difference between profit or loss.

Once we had all the information from testing our hypothesis and adjustments, we were able to come to some conclusions about our venture. Just like a scientist, we learned from what we tried and decided what to do with what we learned. While it may seem a stretch, the scientific method is actually a transferable method to starting a real company.

Customer discovery as your hypothesis and your observation

Many in the entrepreneurial space talk about customer discovery. From experience, it is one of the most under-looked, undervalued aspects of starting a business. It starts with questions: What do you see? What do you hear, feel, taste, and smell in your environment? From what you observe, what is annoying? What are some things that you wished were better?

Once you have answered these questions, start to ask if this is exclusive to you, or inclusive to others. From this first step of customer discovery, you will be able to determine whether the problem is worth pursuing to solve. If about 15-20 people share the same problem, chances are there might be a market for the problem that you observed. If they don’t, the problem might not be worth pursuing.

However, if it is worth solving, go further. Try to understand who are these people who face the same problem that you observed. Keep in mind that the people you discovered to share the problem are critical to the success of your venture.

Prototyping as your question and your test

From what you learned about the problem that you and many others face, you will start the work of creating the solution. In the “tech entrepreneurial” world, this is your MVP: Minimum Viable Product.

Your MVP is your first product that addresses the problem but before you start creating the solution you have to ask more questions to determine the actual solution. How are you going to create the product/service? Is it possible to create given the resources? Is it still worth pursuing?

When you have answered these questions and you know what your product/service is and how you are going to do it, then you put it to the test. The only way to really know if your solution has value to those that share the problem is by observing whether or not it works.

Methods, results, and conclusions!

What did you learn from your MVP? What did you observe? Did the MVP work as expect? Why? These are critical questions to ask after you’ve put your solution to the test. From what you learn you will have to make that decision to decide whether to continue with it, tweak it, or do something completely different.

When we finished our first project our instructor shared with us that as an entrepreneur it feels weird to be called one. That more than anything he is a scientist. This is because that although entrepreneurs and scientists may exist in different worlds, they both use similar processes to solve problems. In many ways, entrepreneurs and scientists are one of the same.

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