It’s just not up to us

Sep 16 2015

Each day this week, my two labmates and I watched our idea morph and mold to each discussion we conducted. It was after almost every session that we all said, “Well, let’s see what we’ll be working with tomorrow!” This quickly turned into a joking line because each time the three of us sat down, we hacked away at least half of our idea and changed it into something else.

The three of us began Monday with an application idea inspired by Hofstede’s dimensions (numbers representing a culture’s individualism, masculinity, power distance, avoidance of uncertainty and long-term orientation). It would allow people traveling to get a feel for what a community is like before actually getting there. Essentially, it would serve as a cultural crash course of different cities, towns and communities across the United States.

Pretty cool idea, right?  Yes. So cool that we found about five companies had already created something freakishly similar to what we were planning.

This caused for a difficult decision to be made early in the week: Continue to pursue this idea or move on to the next idea?

On Tuesday, we decided to move forward with the project — surely three brilliant minds could create something amazing out of the idea we had on the table.

Because many of the other apps did not include a complete cultural analysis, we decided to highlight it as our key feature and rebuild from there.

By Wednesday, we had altered our target market to university foreign exchange programs exclusively. We knew our app would be extremely beneficial for study abroad offices helping students discover a foreign university based on the type of cultural experience they are looking for. The app would also act as a primary resource for university exchange information, significantly lessening the workload of the international office.

So on Thursday, my labmate, Jordan McMullen, and I took a trip to UNC’s FedEx Global Education Center. Eager to hear from another party about how fabulous our product would be, we talked to the international student program manager, Adrienne Cromwell, about our proposal.

“I can see how something of this nature could be useful,” she said.

I thought to myself: What. That’s it?

Jordan and I looked at each other expressing the same thought: She’s not jumping with joy. Why is she not jumping with joy? This is such a good idea!

The fact that she wasn’t absolutely thrilled really brought us back in check with reality. I learned this week that it’s so easy to get caught up in an idea that has you walking around with a gold star that you put on your forehead yourself.

Our executive director in the Lab, John Clark, has said from day one that it doesn’t matter what we think about our idea; it matters what they think. If users and consumers don’t see a substantial benefit to our product, then it really doesn’t matter how magical it appears to us.

Just before we left Adrienne’s office, she asked us to send her a written proposal that she could bring to a meeting with her supervisor.

Jordan and I shot each other another look: Okay, she’s still not jumping with joy, but it’s a start.

Up until this week, a good majority of the work we were doing in the Lab was related to the creative process of designing a product. Actually going out, talking to people and getting feedback about whether they would use our app gave us a good look at the functional side of what we’ll be working on this semester — or not working on. After all, if someone won’t buy your product, there’s no sense in selling it.

It was a very informative week, vital to the success of our idea. By the time Friday rolled around, we weren’t entirely sure as to what the faith of our app would be, but we certainly were ready for the weekend.


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