How publishers can F.A.I.L. faster (because life's too short...)

How publishers can F.A.I.L. faster (because life's too short...)

At the FutureBook conference I had the great pleasure of chairing its first ever “Think Sprint” –  applying outsider ideas to insider problems. Ahead of the event we crowdsourced concepts from the industry to give us a few innovative ideas for a live stress-test.

From the twelve ideas submitted ahead of the conference, three were selected for a deep dive analysis in real time, while ahead of the session the ThinkSprint team reached out to their roster of start-ups and developers to think about possible solutions to the concepts.

Before delving into the ideas, Scott and Sam, the co-founders of ThinkSprint, gave us an overview on their business model, which evolved from the need to test the market with a MVP (minimal viable product or process) in order to get failing right. For ThinkSprint, F.A.I.L. stands for a Focused Attempt In Learning.

You have to test a market and trial an offering in order to refine and improve it. Publishers have been following this exact process for centuries with physical product; if a genre or format doesn’t sell as well as anticipated, lessons are learnt for future editions, but we don’t give up on that product - we iterate and improve it. Why should digital be any different? At HarperCollins we’re committed to constantly innovating our digital consumer offering – for a recent example see the newly personalised redesign of BookGig.

ThinkSprint connects companies with their own incubator of disruptors to hone an idea, then takes that prototype to a consumer panel for review and shares the results.

We also covered which company inspires ThinkSprint most with its relentless pursuit of innovation (I’ll give you a clue it began with an A…). Of course with Alphabet and Apple there are a few contenders but Amazon was the ThinkSprint pick for inspiring disruptive innovator.

The innovation at Amazon follows a relentless, continual pursuit of problem solving for customers, often before they’re even aware there is a problem – this “not so secret-sauce” is what has enabled Amazon to learn more about its audience’s needs than they do. I may have highlighted that you’d be hard-pressed to find a group more consciously aware of Amazon’s ability to disrupt and innovate than the attendees of FutureBook17!

The concepts we were stress-testing themselves were very varied – we had an archaeological AR geolocation treasure hunt à la Pokémon GO, a publishing skills marketplace (rather than a conventional publisher) and a sampling solution for test question banks and revision resources emphasising social sharing and related products.

These ideas were critiqued with potential “banana skins” to watch out for, as well as practical suggestions to either broaden the concept or make it more relevant to a specific niche. Sam and Scott then ran through the feedback from their Consumer group sharing insights – like of the target audience how many people would use this service, and more crucially what’s the most they’d be willing to pay for it?

Our fantastic audience were also giving feedback and potential ideas for how these concepts could be refined into more compelling offering –  which just shows that sharing ideas for wider dissection before development is an essential.

The ThinkSprint session was billed as an experiment but the results were very clear. Life really is too short to make things which nobody wants – I hope attendees feel more confident about how to make the most their own F.A.I.L.s as a result.