Corporate Innovator

Not many people do what David J. Bland does.  He created his own niche which grew from his 11 years  working at startups.  One was successful, the other two were not, but he started to see some patterns emerge from the two that didn’t succeed.  They were ignoring the customers’ problems.  They were building “stuff” because they thought they were right.  After the last failure… he decided to get into coaching and consulting. David and his family moved to the Northern California and started using everything he’d learned to help people NOT make the same mistakes he had done.   

David J. Bland works with industry giants.  Companies that everyone knows by name.  They hire David because they’re trying to increase revenue by creating something new or by reimagining what they're already good at in a different way.  Companies are unsure on the best way to navigate this change, so they bring him in because of his experience working with accelerators in Silicon Valley.   By the way, he loves working with entrepreneurs too because it’s fun to work with them.  Regardless of the size of the company, it all comes down to identifying problems and figuring out what goal they want to achieve.  One big misconception he encounters often is the assumption that customers tell you what they want, and the company designs it for them.  The reality is that you need to get to the root of why the customer is asking for it.  There's a science and an art to getting to what a customers’ needs are and then designing something that meets their needs and David J. Bland has perfected it.   

Many people play in the same space he does, but they're hyper-specialized.  Product people are very good at tailoring product managers needs, or engineers are really good at telling other engineers how to do this or that, but this is where David is different.  He has years of experience in cross-functional teams, so he doesn’t hyper specialize…he can do it all.  At startups David played many different roles and he is able to walk into any company and help teams work through their risk. He’s been a designer, a developer, a manager, a tester and a sales engineer.  He’s played all those roles.  He’s a unicorn in this space.  One of a kind.

Test, Test, and Test Some More

Often times David J. Bland is brought onto a project to see if something is worth investing in. Companies explain to him what they're trying to do, what their goal is, but are not sure whether they should invest in it or not. For the next six to twelve weeks, David will go through his process of identifying their risk. David will map out the three hypotheses to his testing process to address risk. Desirability, Viability and Feasibility.


What's your risk around the customer needs, their jobs, their pains or gains? What are the things you're worried about? What has to be true for this to work with a customer?


Which is more product and pricing? What is it going to cost for you to create this thing? Do you know what the risks are? Will they pay enough for it?


Can you execute on it? What are your concerns about having a team that can do this or being able to execute on it? What are your regulatory and legal risks? It’s not only about technology.

Experiments are run once a week, sometimes more, to build up evidence to answer the million-dollar question…should a company invest in this or not?  At the end of the 12-week process, companies will have evidence to make a sound investment decision. 

  • Keep going
  • Pivot in a different direction
  • Park it/kill it entirely

Once these points of emphasis get addressed, David will help teams map them and create what he coined an Assumptions Map.  He focuses on the what's most important and yet has the least amount of evidence.  He identifies the riskiest assumptions, the things that if you ignore, will kill your idea.  He figures out how to test those from a list of 44 experiments which he goes into detail in his book.  He’ll run those experiments and then come back and ask…”What did we learn?  Is this something you want to invest in or not?”  It’s a scientific method applied to product and business.

The tests can be a little broad at times.  Companies end up loving the experiment process.  They love that they're able to take this process and apply it to other things. 

I had a recent conversation with an employee I coached many years ago, and he said, “I never gave you your flowers.” He took everything to heart that I taught him, went off and created his own startup and got funding for it. I've had that happen a few times where people reach out to me several years later and say, what I taught them way back when…they're using it where they're at now. It's really rewarding for me.
David J. Bland

David J. Bland



David’s process consists of a series of questions which has taken him close to 10 years and is constantly being refined.  His superpower is being able to extract what people are worried about, frame it up and give them options of how to go experiment and de-risk it.  He has a knack for being able to explain things that are very complex and unpack them in a simple way where people can put them into action and he then coaches them and becomes their mentor through that process.  He uses his design background to draw things out from a visual style and help people understand complicated concepts and make them actionable. 

He’s the first to point out that he’s not a domain expert.  He’s not going to tell companies what to do.  He’s going to identify the biggest risks by running experiments that will help address that risk.  His unique value proposition is his startup experience AND corporate experience so he’s very  knowledgeable in what both sectors can do and gives him a leg up when he encounters resistance.  When people say it can't work for X, he usually has a story where it's worked for X, but he’s also sensitive to the fact that what worked for one company might not work for another.

We can start talking about mapping out your risk, looking at what experiments we could run to reduce that risk and then make an informed investment decision on whether or not you should go forward with that, pivot it or potentially kill it. I've wasted years of my life at startups building things that nobody wanted, and I would prefer you to avoid that. I'd love for you not to waste time, effort and energy building things that nobody wants. It's going to be fun. You're going to learn about the process, and you might save a lot of money.” – David Bland
David J. Bland

David J. Bland

David J. Bland's Three-Step Process

Extracting your assumptions.
Desirability assumptions, viability assumptions, feasibility assumptions for the idea that you have.
Mapping out those assumptions.
Map those assumptions and then focus on the things that are most important, where you have the least amount of evidence.
Running experiments.
Experimentation is critical in order to address the riskiest assumptions and then feed that back into the process.
David's Process

David created and facilitates the process he’s developed where questions are asked to get companies thinking about the customer.  Who is your target customer?  What job are they trying to solve for them? How do they reach them?  What is their value proposition?

Questions like:

  • How much would you charge for this?
  • What would you need to charge to be profitable?
  • Are there other revenue streams that you could potentially test?
  • What's your cost to create this value?
  • Do you have the right team?
  • What are your thoughts on regulatory or governance policy you might run into?
  • Do you have the ability to execute on this?
  • Will someone buy it, or will they simply like it?

He digs into a company’s unique challenge.  What it is, how they're structured and issues they're going to run into.  His goal is to make things simple.  He points out how things are connected to each other and how components can be simplified so they can put it into action.

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