About a month ago I attended NHS workshop on sleep – designed to elevate symptoms of insomnia and general problems associated with falling asleep. There was a good bunch of us sitting in the room early in the morning barely managing to keep our eyes open desperately hoping this workshop would make a difference. (Selfishly, I was happy to see other people had sleep issues, too). I shared this story with masterly: (my startup team) and they related to it. To cut a long story short – that’s how we decided to do something about sleep. Fast forward some time, and here we are entering the Bright Ideas competition with our product where we’ll have to ‘defend’ it and prove its viability. The deadline is around the corner, but I think we’re almost ready! Just a few last changes left to do (to put it in cooking terms it’s like adding just the right amount of salt and pepper to season the dish).
That workshop helped to realise that there is a tonne of people out there having trouble falling asleep. So it wasn’t just me. Nor it was just the rest of masterly:. Now we knew there was a problem out there, so we decided to tackle it. We went bottom-up rather than top-down.
Bottom-up or top-down?
Approach a particular user base/ niche that is underserved to create something with people (i.e. your target audience) in mind already. According to Vincent Suppa, CEO of HR and Adjunct Professor at New York University, that’s when that particular target group will naturally gravitate towards you (2014). That’s starting with a problem within a specific niche and only then identifying the value. This approach seems logical because the product serves the demand. Regarding examples let’s talk iOS. Every year or so Apple releases its mobile Operating System. First, it releases a beta version for which you can sign up and then give feedback to the company before it publicly releases the new iOS. Once the need’s identified, the product’s created. Furthermore, it involves its users into the process of creation thus establishing emotional value between a product and a user – two birds with one stone hit. But this doesn’t mean that the product is fully developed yet – let’s take a look at iOS timeline for 2016.
Beta release July 7th
public release September 13th
the first update also know as (aka) 10.0.2 September 23rd
second update aka 10.0.3 October 17th
third update aka 10.1 October 24th
fourth update aka 10.1.1 October 31st
During the use of iOS users themselves report the issues (bugs) of the system, and only then Apple fixes those bugs. Here’s the demand-supply equation aka bottom-up.
On the other hand, a top-down approach is entirely different. That’s when you start with a product or service and only then create a value proposition for identified problem or need. In this case, a product is first created and only then various markets are searched to realise it. As a result, ‘waste’ products might be created using top-down model. Possibly because a chunk of cash has been already invested into the product and now it needs ‘justification.’ In this case, the market doesn’t exist for it; thus one will be created artificially*. Arguably it is advised to choose the bottom-up approach when designing new products or service.
Unsurprisingly, it is not as straightforward as it first appears. Although bottom-up approach requires determining a problem first and only then looking for a solution, it might not always be the right answer. I liked V. Suppa’s example when he said that if you asked people back in the day before the invention of cars, they would’ve wanted horses that run faster and have fewer necessities to survive (such food or rest). Henry Ford took the top-down approach: he created the first affordable automobiles that were advantageous to horses even though the general public definitely would’ve not identified that as a need. This example suggests that when designing something revolutionary or fundamentally different, that might not even be a concept yet, you might be better off with the top-down approach. What I’ve learnt from Dave Trott, my ultimate advertising guru, that lazy people look for formulas that only require inserting their numbers and then – voilà! I’m certain you know that one size fits all is wrong.
Bear in mind that both bottom-up or top-down approaches are just a framework. Not only one will have to use own numbers but also own head. masterly: is entering the Bright Ideas competition having applied the framework that works for us on this particular occasion. Whenever you have an idea, choose what works for you, not masterly: Good luck!
* – might not represent the actual demand