The Big Idea Hypothesis represents your idea about the solution to the pain you observed. It can be a breakthrough hypothesis (ideas that run against conventional wisdom) or a better-faster-cheaper hypothesis (ideas that provide incremental improvement on an existing theme). Later you will transform this Big Idea Hypothesis into a solution hypothesis and an eventual solution. However, at this stage, we focus on the "big idea" because it allows you to create a simple concept that can be destroyed, re-constructed, and continually worked on as you test the idea with customers.
Although this step may seem overly simple, we've seen entrepreneurs waste years and millions of dollars chasing an untested market pain. Writing down your Big Idea Hypothesis forces you to focus and clarify what you believe before you build anything. At this stage you are going to be hypothesizing about and then asking customers regarding which side of the city you should build on, which neighborhood, and which structure, but you are not asking them what color of paint should be on the walls or trying to convince them that the apartments you have already built are the right residence for them.
The best structure we have found for your Big Idea Hypothesis can be found in Geoffrey Moore's book, Crossing the Chasm. Moore calls it the "elevator message," but we are going to turn it into our Big Idea Hypothesis. The steps of the Big Idea Hypothesis are:
1. For (target customer [remember, what is the title on the business card and which industry are they in?])
2. Who (statement of the monetizable pain)
3. The (product name) is a (product category)
4. That (statement of key benefit - that is, the compelling reason to buy)
5. Unlike (primary competitive alternative)
6. Our solution (describe the big idea and statement of primary differentiation)
Using this format, let's take a look at the Big Idea Hypothesis Paul Ahlstrom created in 1997 for his software company, Knowlix:
(1) For the Internal IT Help Desk managers of large corporations who (2) have dissatisfied customers and are out of compliance with their Customers' Service Level Agreements because each front-line support representative is unable to capture and share knowledge so they can answer customers' technical questions and problems in a timely manner, (3) Knowlix is an IT Knowledge Management Solution that (4) allows the front-line IT Customer Support Reps to capture issues within their existing workflow and provide accurate answers in real-time to their corporate customers. (5) Unlike Inference, Knowlix (6) integrates large amounts of unstructured data into the existing workflow of Remedy, Bendata, Peregrine, and other leading IT Help Desk systems, thus allowing the frontline support rep to answer the question on the first call.
(See Nail It Then Scale It, pgs. 69-73)