In this Series, we’ve shown you how our Product, Marketing, Sales and Customer Services Teams use Kindling among themselves, within the company and with our key customers and partners.
Using our product has allowed us to better communicate with each other and with our customers, to solve problems as they arise and to find areas of the product that need improvement. Zooming up a bit, we’ve also learned several key lessons along the way. Some of these were hard-earned, and many apply to any start-up. We figured that sharing these would be a good way to wrap up the Series.
Lesson 1 — We Don’t Know Everything.
We’re smart, but we don’t know everything. By asking both our employees and our customers how we need to get better, we acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers. With every idea submitted, regardless of its source, we are reminded of that very true fact. A start-up needs to be a listening and learning entity, because you’re trying to create something anew in an uncertain, often risky environment. Only by listening and quickly adapting can you navigate towards success.
Are you asking the right questions of your employees? Your customers are trying to talk to you, are you listening?
Lesson 2 — Giving everyone a voice is healthy.
People join a startup for a lot of reasons, but in particular they want to influence the creation of something. It’s been incredibly helpful to include the entire Kindling community, from employees to customers to partners to investors, in an ongoing conversation about what Kindling, both the product and the company, will be.
Look around your company, is everyone’s voice being heard? Is there a shared vision taking shape?
Lesson 3 — There is a balance.
When you open yourself up to feedback, a new challenge arises — how much influence should it carry? You should no sooner jump at every small piece of evidence as you would cling to beliefs that aren’t materializing. This is where the ability to spot patterns becomes crucial. If employees are continuing expressing some flavor of a similar problem or if customers are pointing out a related hold in your product, this is when you should act. Individual feedback is nice, but patterns are gold.
Are you looking for patterns in the feedback you’re receiving, or are you jumping at single points of evidence?
Lesson 4 — Say No. Often.
Besides being good life advice, we’ve learned the power of saying no and it’s important role in sustaining the ongoing conversation with your community. It’s the secret sauce, and one we talk and write about often.
True to Conway’s Law, Kindling itself is a manifestation of this belief. Through one lens, you could view Kindling as a tool for turning massive amounts of ideas into the very small subset of ideas worthy of investment and realization. But guess what’s on the other side of ‘a very small subset’ — saying no. And ultimately you’re saying no to someone’s idea, something they believe strongly in. At first glance, this seems like a huge problem.
Luckily, there’s something that acts as a salve when saying “no”: transparency. We believe that what people need, what they crave, is for their ideas to be listened to. To be given a fair shake. Back when there was a paper-based suggestion system, you’d slide that beloved piece of paper containing what you think is a winning idea into the slot and never hear about it again. The dreaded black hole.
Kindling turns this on its head. Ideas are immediately discussed openly with the community. Then experts opine, and ideas are walked through stages towards a decision. If at any point along the way, the idea becomes infeasible or otherwise isn’t a good fit for the environment — it costs too much or the market won’t bear it or a competitor failed with a similar product or any of the other million potential reason that an idea may be a no-go — as long as decision-makers share this reasoning, people will respect these facts and move on productively.
Are you closing the loop on the many ideas floating around your organization?
This Series is an invitation to our world. We’ve shown you how the different teams in our start-up use Kindling to collect and share feedback, and what each team has taken away from this experience. We’re also curious to hear how you’re using Kindling to do things better. Tweet us and let us know.