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The secret of success | Paul Featherstone


The secret of success is understanding what others need


I briefly listened to Dame Katherine Grainger DBE on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs this morning. Dame Katherine is Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, a world class rower with five Olympic medals, no-one could doubt she is a high achiever and a fantastic role model.

But success wasn’t instant for Dame Katherine, she told a story of studying in Edinburgh at the start of her career. She was convinced that she would make it to the pro University rowing team – she was good enough as far as she was concerned. Imagine her surprise when they read the names out on the three lists of those students who had made the team and she wasn’t on there, in-fact she only appeared in the “remedial” team. She recounted how she stormed out of the meeting, ran up Arthur’s seat and made herself a promise that she would never put herself in that position again.

It struck me that Dame Katherine had learned a valuable lesson that day and I drew some parallels in my mind with digital product development.

The secret of success is understanding what others need – whether it’s the pro rowing team or consumers. If you work on assumptions don’t be disappointed when those assumptions are wrong.

You may then think you are not good enough, your product is not wanted, you will not succeed. But you are wrong! Don’t feel rejection or that this is a damning indictment of your skills, ability and passion for succeeding in doing and producing things of value.

You need to change your approach, understand what others need and we unlock a powerful ability – we can then meet that need. We then have a benchmark of success – rowing teams that win olympic medals and products that we wonder how we ever lived without.

A hunch, assumption or hypothesis is not enough – it needs to be validated to understand what the need is. If the need doesn’t exist in the way you thought it did then pivot and adapt to where the need is, but don’t give up.

The best way to validate what people need may sound old fashioned in these days of big data analytics but technology can still play a role in having a conversation. So go and talk to your local rowing team, you never know what they might need!

Blogging, tweeting and talking about digital transformation, digital technology, digital marketing, innovation and ideas.

All opinions are my own.

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