7 Strategies to Accelerate Through Uncertainty

Innovation Strategy

You thought you knew a thing or two about navigating uncertainty; racked up a few wins creating new revenue streams for your company, or new experiences for customers. But now the foundation underneath us has crumbled away. We now have even more uncertainty…in the tools we use, the tests we run, and the teams we manage.

We have a saying at Peer Insight, “I don’t know, but I know how to know.” As a growth leader, your job, even in this changing world, is still to know how to know. While the task at hand is the same, you may need some new tools to navigate the near-term. We sure do, and wanted to share our thinking.

Here are 7 strategies to continue making progress on your critical growth initiatives during this uniquely dynamic time. You are likely already doing a couple of these!

1. Re-evaluate your growth portfolio priorities

Are there other backburner ideas / initiatives that are better suited to move forward in this environment? Either because you have greater access to those customers or because it is better suited to the moment? Zoom out and look across your full growth portfolio, asking: “what is the best investment of my time and resources today? As of now, what are the problems most worth solving?”

If you have a choice, don’t be afraid to spin an alternative one up if your efforts will be better utilized there. One of our clients has a project portfolio that includes a food cold chain venture and a telehealth venture. The underlying needs for both have fundamentally changed in the past two weeks. Staying nimble and responsive will be key to being meaningfully productive, so you are moving the right things forward at the right time.

2. Prioritize your assumptions and learning goals based on your new constraints

Getting crystal clear on what you need to learn will help you design alternative testing pathways. The environment may have changed what is important to learn but more likely what is possible to learn. In telehealth, for example, health systems are expanding the definition of what will be reimbursable. This should spawn new research. Jot down all your critical learning goals that are relevant to your challenge and prioritize them with fresh eyes.

3. Diversify your market validation strategy

When you are running qualitative tests that are smaller in scale, but still need decision-quality data to de-risk your launch, consider running multiple tests that collect data on similar objectives. Then triangulate insights across all tests (including previous findings) to increase your confidence in the results. In the current moment, for example, online learning is experiencing increasing demand. We are helping clients test the resonance of new value propositions through ads, in-depth interviews, and a pitch deck, and then looking across all three tests to make decisions.

4. Upgrade your success metrics

If you are measuring your success by conversions, churn, or other metrics that will be greatly affected by the shifting landscape, stop anchoring to those. Behavioral data might not be trustworthy. Consider understanding the deeper whys through qualitative measures, and measure your progress in learning on your most critical assumptions until things have stabilized.

Here are a few alternative ways to measure success: clarity on learning goals, deep understanding of why users feel the way they do, reported satisfaction with the offering, clarity on future roadmaps, willingness to recommend. If you can get new clarity in any of those categories, that will be time well spent.

5. Explore virtual research tools to both meet current deadlines (and to try them on for size)

Virtual has it’s advantages even in times we aren’t navigating the current challenges. Virtual research is more affordable, can include a wider spread of geographies and participants, can accommodate hard to reach people, and can increase the ability to rapidly iterate.

There are a variety of meaningful virtual research tracks and tests that we always utilize in our toolkit.

Journaling studies have come a long way. There are now apps and services that allow researchers to develop quests and pose questions. They allow participants to give a tour of their space, record video and audio messages, generate text, and upload photos. These advances close the gap with traditional observational research. We like to end them with a virtual interview to dig even deeper into the findings.

Design explorations are a favorite tool of ours for moving quickly. With these, we create a variety of deconstructed prototypes of a product or service. Users get to make tradeoffs and build their ideal, also helping us to understand the why so we can go beyond their preference and identify an insight that can influence all parts of the offering.

Moderated simulations are useful when you already have a real product, but they are just as useful with clickable prototypes or faked simulations. . Here, you are putting the real (or real-enough) offering in front of users, watching how they use it, and asking them to accomplish certain tasks – all the while collecting qualitative insights to inform an iteration.

Pitch deck tests involve putting a sales deck for a new offering (that is yet to be built) in front of users to help test the value proposition, users’ willingness to engage, and collect user expectations of the new service to inform a future build.

Learn more about our virtual research methodology here.  

6. Focus your team

If your team is newly distributed, build new strategies and adopt new tools to stay connected and agile. We love Slack for real time messaging, Zoom for video conferencing, Miro for virtual collaboration, and daily scrums to stay connected and focused.

As a leader in uncertain times, you are likely making twice as many decisions twice as fast. Be sure to make the from → to in your thinking transparent and explicit to your team so they can be as agile as this challenge will require. Remember they are processing more than they ever have, too. So write it down in virtual spaces so they can refer back as needed, and update as your thinking evolves, which it most certainly will.

As you already know quarterly plans will be out-of-date before they are finalized. Shift your thinking to sprints and work in focused bursts. This includes how you run research and tests. If you were planning on n=20, go for n=5 and then pause and reflect to see if your efforts are producing the required results. Then iterate and repeat.

7. Reframe in order to create opportunities

Tough constraints create new possibilities. For some hard-to-capture customers, their schedule has just been upended as they work from home or reorganize their daily routines. They may have more time and availability to participate in tests or research during this reorientation. Especially virtual options that we detailed above.  

Consider this an opportunity to understand extreme use cases. There is a concept of designing for your extreme users. When users are in extreme circumstances, their needs are amplified and they find workarounds that can create insights that inspire your new offering. For some industries, the needs you uncover today will supercharge your ability to deliver in a less extreme environment tomorrow.

We hope at least one or two of these put some wind in your sails as you navigate these new waters. If we can be helpful in any way as you figure out your next best steps, let’s think out loud together for 10 minutes (you can grab some time with us using this link).


Josh Clayton


Insights + Tools

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