Here’s Why I Banned the Phrase “Proof of Concept” From My Company

Aidan Quilligan

The world is awash with concepts in technology. Grand ideas vowing to change the face of society and the world as we know it flood our inboxes. However, we have seen that these “concepts” historically end in a winter of discontent when they are not based on the reality of what people need.

The infamous dot com bubble of 2000 is just one example — thousands of new companies were created without any real grounding or know-how to create sustainable, profitable businesses. All they had was a concept and a hope for a successful IPO. When the bubble burst, trillions of dollars were lost and many were left scratching their heads trying to figure out what to do next.

When launching a project or business, we have to have more than a “concept.” We need to know how, exactly, it will add value to the lives of those we are trying to serve. I have spent hundreds of hours looking at and being asked to fund proof of concepts in my work with next-generation technologies. But I believe the very nature of a “proof of concept” sets our projects up to fail. Over time, I decided to ban the use of the phrase entirely. Instead, I use a term that focuses on what is most important: Proof of Value.

Shift Your Mindset

More often than not, the proof of concepts I would encounter did not get to the bottom of what people truly needed. They lived on the surface — theoretical concepts for the future that did not address the needs of today.

A mere concept does nothing until it provides value, so why is a “proof of concept” the most important marker of the viability of a project? A proof of concept merely shows us that a project can happen, not why it should. As service providers, we must shift our mindset and start with one fundamental question: How will this unlock more value for my clients and for their end customers?

Furthermore, when you go through the process of identifying the value of a project, you can engage with the work in a much more meaningful way; you can glean new insights that go beyond the technical and logistical, and your project becomes more than a series of lines in Excel.

Don’t Be Dazzled by Technology

New technology and its promise of better, faster, and more can often distract us from the job at hand. As the pace of technology continues to accelerate, it will only grow more tempting to get caught up in the newest and most impressive trends. However, we have to be wary — these shiny new toys do not always lead to real-world impacts on the other end.

This pattern has played out over the last few decades when the promise of new technology fails to sync with reality. Take the failure of Google Glass. Google spent years developing the technology only to discover that consumers had considerable privacy concerns with the product and did not want to spend such an enormous sum on wearable tech. Google had been so distracted by the possibility of their exciting development that they entirely missed the mark — they created a product their audience didn’t want.

Conversely, Apple takes a very different approach — they are famous for being absolutely certain they know about the viability of a market before they announce and launch. In fairness, both approaches can have some merit, but in the world of constrained resources that most of us inhabit, being clear on the end value is vital to the focus of energy and investment.

Leading with proof of value helps us maximize ROI. If the technology is exciting but doesn’t provide value to our clients, we do not pour our time, energy, and resources into it. Before diving down the rabbit hole of technology advancements, we should pause and consider who the technology will serve and why our clients and their end customers really need it.

Start From Where You Are

Many entrepreneurs and business owners are similarly tempted by grand dreams of future change and transformation. They jump so far into the future that they skip over crucial steps along the way and end up making an emergency crash landing. By rooting our work where the value is soon, we keep our feet firmly planted on the ground. What do people need now? What problem can I solve today? How does that lead us toward a better tomorrow?

This isn’t to say that we should not be aspirational or look to push boundaries. But in order to do so, we must build a solid foundation first — we need to be able to articulate what it is we’re creating, why we’re creating it, and how we will get from where we are today to where we’d like to go in the future.

Be Agile

None of us know what the future might hold. We may create a product that later becomes obsolete, or we find that a solution we developed is no longer viable. The key to weathering these ups and downs is to stay agile.

Pay attention to the marketplace, listen to what people need and want, and adapt as they do. If we spend all of our time locked in an office tinkering with a concept, we will not be prepared for the inevitable changes that occur outside in the real world. However, when we focus on providing value, we are no longer bound to one perfect idea and are better able to shift as the market does.

Create value first

We cannot create a solution before we identify the problem; it is like carrying around a hammer before you’ve found the loose nail in the wall. Instead, determine what your clients need and where you can provide value to address those needs, then launch your project from there.

It is time to do away with the outdated “proof of concept” practice and focus on creating value first. Trading out proofs of concept for proofs of value makes you much more likely to see a summer of success than a winter of discontent.

This is original content from NewsBreak’s Creator Program. Join today to publish and share your own content.

Comments / 0

Published by

Aidan presently serves as President, Corporate Development at QuEST Global, responsible for accelerating towards multi-billion $ scale. He leads the M&A program to identify, acquire and integrate the next generation of capabilities.


More from Aidan Quilligan

Comments / 0