The three types of commitment you need to get your idea validated

The key difference between believing you have validated your idea and actually validating your idea is getting commitment. The stronger the commitment you get, the more convincing your evidence. Read on to learn all about it.

You probably know there is a significant difference in what people say they will do and what people actually do. Ask people how often they plan to go to the gym the coming month and check back later how often they actually visited the gym. Convinced of that crucial difference?

It’s the same for your innovation. The second worst1 question you can ask while validating your idea is: “Would you buy this?”. What you should do instead is ask for commitment. Commitment comes in three forms. Here they are:

  1. Time
  2. Reputation
  3. Money

And yes, they are listed in the order of weakest to strongest commitment.


Time is valuable. Someone spending time with you on your innovation is a small commitment. If they don’t care at all about what you’re doing, they wouldn’t be spending time with you. You can ask for time by scheduling an interview, show them your prototype, or ask their email address for your newsletter. The more time they are willing to give to you, the stronger the commitment, the stronger the evidence. Potential customers handing you money during the first meeting is your dream scenario, but it’s more likely that you need to start by asking for small commitments, and time is a good first step.


A reputation commitment is strong evidence but a rarely used tactic. It works best in a business-to-business (B2B) setting and helps you build a sales funnel at the same time. You can use this type of commitment during customer discovery interviews. After the interview, ask to be introduced to the manager of the person you’re interviewing. If they want to problem solved (and they believe you might have the solution), they will introduce you to their manager. By doing so, they put a small part of their reputation on the line. Other forms of a reputation commitment are a (written) recommendation, testimonial or a warm introduction to relevant people.


The strongest form of commitment is money. In some cases, you can accept pre-orders for your innovation, but this is not always feasible. Therefore a money commitment can come in different forms. A signed ‘letter of intent’ or ‘memorandum of understanding’ in a B2B setting is a great way of getting a ‘money’ commitment. The letter states that the customer is willing to buy from you when your innovation reaches certain specifications. The great thing about a letter of intent is that you can vary in how legally binding the letter is. Stronger and more binding letters are stronger evidence. Other forms of a money commitment are a paid pilot, a pre-sale, crowdfunding, a co-development agreement, etc.

Are you currently working on bringing an innovation to market? Ask yourself what commitments you have received and how strong those commitments are? What test can you perform next to increase the commitments and de-risk your innovation? Feel free to get in touch for a free discussion of your project.


  1. If you’re wondering, the worst question you can ask is: “How much would you pay for this?”. This is because it is a strongly leading question that gives you a false sense of validation because of the specific number in the answer. The fact that people give you an answer ‘validates’ that they would buy your innovation while the majority likely wouldn’t. [go back up]

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