What is your idea, product, or service for?

Inspired by Seth Godin’s “The Practice,” one of the first fundamental questions I now ask clients is, “what is it for?” It is a fantastic question to set the stage. Partly because it sort of stops you in your tracks for a second.

If you're planning to write about a product or services you're offering (or your employer is), stop and think about this for a second before you begin.

What Do You Mean “What is it For?”

“What do you mean ‘what is it for?’” is often what races through your mind when you first hear the question. I don’t know what DO I mean? Is it the literal reason for your product/service/idea to exist? Is it so you can make money? Are you trying to change someone?

What it’s for is different for everyone. Maybe you are in it for the money, or perhaps to make some meaningful change in someone’s life. Maybe it is in support of another idea you’re simultaneously pursuing.

Boil it down to the core — what is it for? What is that purpose you’re trying to serve by creating the product, service, or idea?

Make it a Mantra to Maximize the Benefit

Don’t just ask yourself what it is for once. Keep asking. Much like the 5 Why’s popularized by Toyota to find the root cause of issues during manufacturing.

Asking what it is for over and over will help keep you focused on the true path for your product, service, or idea, and the target market you seek to serve.

It Works No Matter What

No matter the platform, no matter the person or team, this questioning technique will ground you. If you can answer it effectively, honestly, and consistently you will greatly enhance your chances of success.

It could become the competitive advantage you need or the improvement that surpasses your expected product outcomes.

Be the manager of your idea by asking this simple question. It’s not simple to answer, but your potential customers, your users, will instinctively feel the difference it makes when you have a real focus on your work.

And it can guide your teams to stay true to your ideas “north star.”

Answering the question clearly, succinctly, and honestly brings you clarity you might have lost after the initial excitement of the idea passes.

Or it can inform decisions you’ll make while developing and growing your work.

Don’t Over Generalize, Don’t Be Boring

You want to be very specific when you answer this question. Don’t generalize it with answers like:

  • “it’s for millions of people”
  • “it’s to corner this market segment”
  • “it’s for agile product development and product management”
  • or really boring “this startup helps all parties…” blah, blah

Those are outcomes. C’mon, dig deep and be honest with yourself.

What is it for?