Butterfly, Customer Development, Innovation

Customer development: engaging youth


“The Hunger…” from @gapingvoid

Let’s say you’ve developed a framework for customer development (such as described here) and it dawns on you that you actually need to get out of your comfort zone and talk to people, many people. . .more people than you’ve ever spoken to before about a single topic.

In one-on-one settings I’ve always been fairly strong and confident (if I do say so myself). When explaining Butterfly (here) to individuals, whether senior government or business leaders, school teachers, community workers, individual kids, etc. No problem whatsoever. However, they way we needed to gather information was through group exercises through innovation games. This was going to be a bit tricky. . .

Brief Interlude – My worst public speaking experience (so far)

Anyone who has spoken in public has one of these stories. Here’s mine. In 2009 I was just starting my MBA program, and some of the faculty were hosting a family business conference (dozens of expert delegates from around the world, big hairy deal) and my (then) family business was one of the places they would visit. They asked if I, along with a couple of others, would speak about our family business. After the plant tour we gathered in an off-site location, and when my turn to speak I went up and, after pausing for what felt like 3 hours to gather my thoughts, I said the following:

“I’m sorry, I cannot do this”

<Interlude Over>

How did I get over this failure? First and foremost, if you’re passionate about something, you have to be the one to talk about it with people. Secondly, I truly believed that no one else could talk about Butterfly the way it needed to be talked about. Lastly, I decided to start looking at failure as a learning opportunity rather than a dead-end.

Now, to date I’ve spoken to hundreds of young people about Butterfly, and have used their input into designing the service (and continue to do so). . .so what works?

Here’s seems to work with young people (also applies to all people):

No PowerPoint. Ever. If you’re simply showing pictures, then just show pictures – don’t put them in PowerPoint. I’m serious. If there’s one piece of text it’s boring.

The focus cannot be on your concept. This is counter-intuitive, but it’s essential. The focus needs to be on connecting and sharing stories with people. We’ve designed and developed interactive activities, so the “presentation” really becomes a laboratory for thinking and exchanging ideas.

– Silence is important. I learned this right before I failed during my worst public speaking experience. Silence draws people in, and it invites them to fill it.

– Be real. Be your true self in front of people. Be vulnerable. Try not to be lame, unless you truly are lame in which case embrace it and really go for it with your entire being.  Use language they understand. Try not to swear too much.

– Know that, deep down, they don’t really want you to fail. They want to be engaged, they want to be heard and listened to, and they don’t want you to do a terrible job. You doing a terrible job will be boring to them eventually, after the snickering dies down.

This guideline was born out of practice and multiple failures, and will no doubt change over time. For now it’s what I go off of. Let me know what works for you, and whatever other thoughts or questions you may have!



Butterfly Website here.



  1. Pingback: Talking to the “right” people | Protegra - July 30, 2014

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: