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Start at the End

How to Build Products That Create Change

By Matt Wallaert
18-minute read
Audio available
Start at the End: How to Build Products That Create Change by Matt Wallaert

Start at the End (2019) provides a highly practical, step-by-step approach to designing products and services that make an impact on the world. Drawing on behavioral science, the process begins with a simple question: How do we want our potential consumers to act? It then works backward to figure out how to make that vision a reality. 

  • Start-up employees looking for a way to shake up their industry’s playing field 
  • Leaders of established companies looking for their next big idea 
  • Entrepreneurs interested in applying behavioral science to their pursuit of business

Matt Wallaert is a behavioral scientist and entrepreneur. As the chief behavioral scientist at Microsoft and the Clover Health insurance company, he has developed his unique approach to designing products and services through hands-on, real-life experience in multiple fields of business. Start at the End (2019) is his first book. 

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Start at the End

How to Build Products That Create Change

By Matt Wallaert
  • Read in 18 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 11 key ideas
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Start at the End: How to Build Products That Create Change by Matt Wallaert
Synopsis

Start at the End (2019) provides a highly practical, step-by-step approach to designing products and services that make an impact on the world. Drawing on behavioral science, the process begins with a simple question: How do we want our potential consumers to act? It then works backward to figure out how to make that vision a reality. 

Key idea 1 of 11

To begin the Intervention Design Process, you need to identify and validate a potential insight. 

The process of assessing how we can modify our potential consumers’ behavior is called the Intervention Design Process, or IDP. It begins with a special type of observation called a potential insight. When you have one of these insights, you’re perceiving a gap between the world as it is (the real world) and the world as you want it to be (the ideal world). 

To make this somewhat abstract definition more concrete, let’s dig into an example. Back in 2012, when the author was helping Microsoft develop the search engine Bing, he and his team had a potential insight: it seemed like children weren’t using search engines at school anywhere near as much as one might expect. 

At first glance, children, schools and search engines should have been a perfect combination. After all, children are brimming with questions, schools are supposed to foster their curiosity and search engines can help them answer nearly any question they might have. In an ideal world (at least from Bing’s perspective), they would be conducting numerous online searches per day (preferably on Bing, of course). But the team suspected a gap between the real world and the ideal world; something was driving a wedge between the two. 

Now, the keyword here is “suspected.” At this point, no one at Microsoft had any empirical evidence to support the notion in question; it was just a hunch. That’s why it was a potential insight; it hadn’t yet been confirmed as an actual insight. 

For all anyone at Microsoft knew at the time, their hunch could have been wrong, and the gap they were perceiving could have been a figment of their imagination. In that case, it would have been a waste of time, money and energy for the company to throw resources at solving a problem that didn’t exist. That’s true of any potential insight, so it’s crucial to test your insight. 

To do that, you need to seek out quantitative or qualitative validation of your insight. For the author and his team, that meant collecting data about children’s internet usage at school – an example of quantitative validation. It also meant going to schools and watching kids’ computer usage in person – an example of qualitative validation. 

It turned out their hunch was correct: on average, each student was conducting less than one search per day. The gap between the ideal world and the real world was proven to exist; their insight was validated.

If the same can be said of your insight, you can now proceed to the next step of the IDP. 

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