Looking for founder tools - Lean Canvas, Traction Roadmap, or Customer Forces? Check out our new LEANFoundry site.

The Lean Canvas Diagnostic - Part 4 of 7: Desirability Stress Testing

Do customers want this?

The top reason why new products fail is building something nobody wants. Why does this happen?

Because entrepreneurs are naturally predisposed to fall in love with their solutions, and they manage to convince themselves that if they build an “awesome” enough solution, people will come — the Field of Dreams.

They frame their differentiation in terms of the novelty of their solution, but if this difference doesn’t matter to customers, the product fails to grab attention.

This kind of solution-centric framing happens to most entrepreneurs and happens unconsciously, which is why I coined it The Innovator’s Bias.

When they have decided to build a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail.

The best way to help your teams sidestep this bias is to help them craft a Why Now Elevator Pitch that builds upon the Innovator’s Gift mental model.

Mental Model #4: The Innovator’s Gift

The basic premise of the Innovator’s Gift is that new problems worth solving come from old solutions. In other words, when building an innovative product, one needs an innovative solution but not an innovative problem.

The problem needs to be old and familiar.

The best way to demonstrate true differentiation comes from nailing a familiar problem with an existing alternative and promising something better (UVP).

The Why Now Elevator Pitch

The Why Now Elevator Pitch makes a case for why a product needs to exist without relying on the solution box. You do this by walking the canvas with the team in the order shown below:

1. Name an undeniable shift in the world that breaks the old way (Macro Switching Trigger)

Ask the team to name a big and relevant change (not caused by them) that breaks the old way and creates an opening for their new way.


  • The global entrepreneurial renaissance.
  • Climate change
  • AI-as-a-service going mainstream

2. Identify what's it for (Job-to-be-done)

Think of the use case or the job their customers are trying to get done. In other words, in what context will their product get used? Don't settle for benefits. Instead, focus on desired outcomes.


  • When entrepreneurs (customers) get hit with a killer idea, they often need to raise money (job) to get their idea off the ground (desired outcome).

3. Identify who's it for (Early Adopters)

While it's tempting to rely on many demographical attributes to define early adopters, remember that psychographic (or behavioral) attributes are more actionable.

Use simple labels to describe the protagonist in the startup’s story (their customer) and rely on actions to identify them.


  • Early-stage entrepreneurs

4. Identify what they currently use (Existing Alternatives)

Many startup founders manage to convince themselves that they have no competition. But this is often because they aren’t looking broadly enough and defining their competition solely in terms of their solution or product category.

You need to help them transcend category.

If they are building cutting-edge collaboration software, for instance, their immediate competitor might not be the shiny startup down the street but email.

Email is free and ubiquitous and the de facto collaboration platform. Sure, they may think they have superior and better technology, but their challenge will be getting people to stop using email and start using their product instead.

Email and spreadsheets have killed more startups than other startups.

That is why you won’t find a “Competition” box on the Lean Canvas but the more general “Existing Alternatives” box.


For the job of fundraising, early-stage entrepreneurs hire

  • Business plans
  • Executive summaries
  • 10-page slide-decks

5. Identify what’s broken with the old way (Problems)

Anchoring against problems with the old way is the secret to crafting an effective pitch that grabs attention and causes a switch — because it’s specific, familiar, and compelling.


What’s broken with the business plan?

  • Nobody reads business plans.

6. How will they cause a switch (UVP)

From here, crafting a compelling UVP is a matter of delivering a better outcome or eliminating a big-enough problem (or both). However, it's not enough to promise something incrementally better.

Incrementally better means the incumbent wins.

They win because they were there first and have an established customer relationship. In other words, it's easier for customers to trust an existing alternative, even with some problems, than a new, untested, risky solution.

Better the devil you know than the devil you don't.

To cause a switch, a unique value proposition needs to be significantly better. Think 3x-10x better.

Here's a simple example: Would you switch to a new computer operating system that promised you a 10% gain in productivity? The answer is no. The promised gain is only incrementally better and isn't worth the hassle.

How about switching to a wholly reimagined virtual reality (VR) based operating system that promises a 10x gain in productivity? See the difference?

Promising a 3x-10x gain isn't easy. The good news is that you don't have to deliver this promise just by being functionally better.

Is coffee from a specialty coffee shop three times better than a large coffee chain? Can the coffee drinker tell them apart in a blind taste test? You don’t have to deliver significantly better solely by being functionally better. Emotion helps.

“Functionally better” is where needs live. “Emotionally better” is where wants live.

Being functionally better aims to address unmet needs. Positioning a product this way can be enough to cause a switch if these unmet needs are well understood by customers as obstacles standing in the way of achieving their desired outcomes (what they want).

If customers do not understand unmet needs, it’s far more powerful to switch your positioning to address their wants or desired outcomes.


  • “We help you create a business plan faster” is positioning around being functionally better.
  • “We help you create a business plan that gets read” is positioning around being emotionally better.

7. Craft the elevator pitch

Once you’ve walked the canvas and tightened the boxes above, use the template below to help the team assemble a killer elevator pitch:

When [customers] encounter a [triggering event],
they need to do [job-to-be-done] in order to achieve
[desired outcome].

They would normally use
[existing alternatives],
but because of [switching trigger] these [existing alternatives] no longer work because of [these problems]. If these problems are left unaddressed, then [what’s at stake]. _

So we built a solution that helps [customers]
achieve [desired outcome] by helping them [unique value proposition].

Here's an example of an elevator pitch from one of my products:

When entrepreneurs get hit with a killer idea,
they often need to raise money in order to get their idea off the ground.

They would normally
write a 40-page business plan,
but because of the recent explosion in the number of startups all over the world (global entrepreneurial renaissance), no one reads business plans anymore. We are living at a time where there are far too many ideas competing for attention. Investors today don’t fund or read business plans and instead look for startups with traction. If a startup fails to grab the attention of investors, they don’t get the necessary resources to grow their idea, and it withers away. _

So we built a solution that helps entrepreneurs
communicate their idea clearly and concisely in under 20 minutes and get buy-in from key stakeholders—so they can spend more time building versus planning their business.

Notice that nowhere in this pitch do I name the product: Lean Canvas.

The Lean Canvas Diagnostic 7-Part Series TOC

  1. Backstory
  2. Structure
  3. Identify Riskiest Assumptions
  4. Desirability Stress Testing
  5. Viability Stress Testing
  6. Feasibility Stress Testing
  7. Right action, right time

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Join thousands of founders for battle-tested recipes, strategies, and how-tos for achieving product/market fit systematically.