• The Mom Test Book Summary and Sketchnote

    What’s the best way to validate a product or service idea? According to author Rob Fitzpatrick it’s the exact opposite of what most of us do. Here’s a quick summary of his book The Mom Test (including a sketchnote) to show you what we do wrong and the right way to act instead.

    Table of Contents

      The Mom Test Sketchnote summary

      What is the mom test?

      The mom test is the worst thing you can do to validate an idea, and yet it is what most of us do.

      It’s when you ask someone you know if they like our idea. It’s called the mom test because it’s like when a mom evaluates their kid’s drawings. They like it because of their relationship with the child and so don’t give it fair evaluation or feedback.

      When you rely on the mom test, you fail to properly validate your ideas but get positive feedback. This leads to bad decisions.

      What to do instead of the mom test?

      Instead of asking if someone like your idea, you should either

      1. seek to understand their problems, situation and current solutions
      2. ask them to buy your product or service.

      The first helps you get evidence on what the person actually does and needs not what they think they might like. The second proves if they think the idea has value to it and that they would be willing to pay.

      How to properly validate an idea

      Rather than start with your idea, start by finding out what they are currently doing to solve their problems. You should ask questions to make sure this is a real problem and one that is causing them issues.

      While they are answering, look for specific past occasions they have tried to solve their problem instead of generic ideas or opinions about what they’d like. If they can give an example of how they have tried to solve that problem, it proves it is a significant problem. If they haven’t tried to solve it, they don’t care enough.

      An anti-marketing approach to sharing your idea

      In marketing, you want to share your idea in the best possible light in an attempt to convince someone to buy. When validating an idea, you want to present it as plainly as possible.

      State exactly the idea, how it is different, how it works and what it does. Don’t talk about the pain points or how it can help overcome problems with other solutions, be as to the point as possible.

      If someone still has a positive reaction to your idea, then you know it’s a good idea. If they have problems or questions about it, don’t be upset.

      The value of bad news

      Bad news is better than good news.

      If you find out there is a similar competitor or another solution which solves the problem better than you could, you have saved yourself from wasting your time.

      If someone finds a fault in your product or service, you can now address it. Problems aren’t the end of the discussion.

      How to respond to feature requests

      Everyone and their dog knows what’s missing from your product or service.

      But they’re mostly wrong. Especially when they talk about features.

      Your goals is to find out the underlying problem they are trying to address and then work out the best way to address it. This is tightly connected to one of the mom test golden rules.

      You cannot tell the customer what their problem is or isn’t, and in return they can’t tell you how to solve it.

      If someone tells you they have an issue, accept that feedback. They do have an issue.

      Other people might not have the same issue but their problem is real.

      But you don’t have to accept their solution.

      Get your own copy of the mom test

      If this summary and review of the mom test by Rob Fitzpatrick has whet your appetite, you can get your own copy of the book to explore the ideas more.

    1. There are a few moments in history when everyone can remember where they were.

      • The first moon landing
      • The Fall of the Berlin wall
      • The attack on the twin towers

      But your memory of these events may be less reliable than you think due to a cognitive bias.

      The misinformation effect is when our memory is changed by what we hear and see after an event.

      E.g. a witness to a crime who remembers seeing something they couldn’t see.

      They remember it because they heard or saw something after the event

      The lesson from an experiment

      Elizabeth Loftus got two groups to watch a video of a car accident and then asked them either:

      1. How fast were the cars going when they hit each other?
      2. How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?

      The second group falsely remembered broken glass when they were asked about the accident a week later [Loftus EF 1975].

      Accidentally influenced

      This isn’t always malicious.

      We might see video footage after an event from a different angle which then implants new information in our minds.

      Our memories then incorporate this information.

      But it can be abused by unsavoury actors.

      How propaganda uses the misinformation effect

      Propaganda can change our recollections of event we witnessed.

      The longer since the events and the more times a falsehood is told, the more likely we are to remember a false narrative.

      So how can we avoid the misinformation effect?

      How to limit the misinformation effect

      Recording your own recollection of an event as soon as possible provides a record of your immediate memories.

      You can use this to evaluate your later recollection and notice how it changes.

      But that’s not foolproof.

      When writing, you may add false data.

      Correction of false information can help to overwrite the implanted idea.

      This only works when the correct information is shared more often than the misinformation.

      This also does nothing for restoring your original memory.


      Our recollections of events can be easily shaped by later information.

      It’s worse the more time passes and the more false information is shared.

      Journaling can limit these effects.

    2. What is Precrastination?

      Unlike procrastination when we put off tasks when we should just get them done, precrastination involves starting a task before the best moment.

      If that sounds unbelievable then consider the example from a study in …

      A group of people had to walk and pick up two heavy buckets and bring them back to a starting line. One bucket was placed further away than the other. The logical thing would have been to go to the further away bucket and then bring it back to the first, collect that one and bring both back to the starting line. However, 80% collected the first bucket on their way to the second buck causing them to exert substantially more energy.

      What are the negative effects of precrastination?

      There are three negative side effects from precrastination.

      1. Wasted energy – by doing tasks before we need to, we can waste energy spending more time and mental energy on a task.
      2. Neglecting important but not urgent – by jumping to task as soon as they come in, we fail to make progress on bigger issues.
      3. Chasing worse ideas – precrastination also tends to follow a lack of evaluation of ideas and project. This causes us to start working immediately and so we go down bad paths focusing on worse idea rather than the best ones.

      In contrast, avoiding precrastination allows us to focus on doing ore important tasks and doing them more efficiently.

      What causes precrastination

      Although there’s no definitive answer, precrastination may have several causes. We can group these into social and mental.

      From a social side, appearing to do work and work hard reflects better on the individual than appearing lazy. We form stronger bonds with the person who does work rather than finds shortcuts (even if those help everyone).

      From a mental perspective, doing a task now reduces the thinking we have to do. This can be a way to ensure something gets done and isn’t forgotten and also avoids the risk of not being able to complete the task later (whether the risk is real or not).

      This final point seems to have some truth as when we are more mentally overloaded, we tend to procrastinate more.

      How you can avoid precrastination

      As precrastination appears to be heavily tied to how much is on our minds, reducing our cognitive load can cut precrastination dramatically.

      This may mean having fewer tasks on our plate at one time, but it also means taking good breaks from time to time too and relaxing properly when we aren’t working.

      Another approach is to schedule times to tackle certain tasks or “time blocking” as it’s sometimes called. This helps us to know that we have time for the urgent task and introduces blocks to work on the important tasks. It can also help us escape being at someone else’s beck and call and give us the confidence of what we should work on at any moment.

      To see a more practical example, take a look at how I planned my ideal week.

      Precrastionors, you’re already on your road to recovery.

      If you’re a precrastinator then have no fear. Realising your tendency is a key first step on your journey to recovery.

      Adding some blocks of time in your day for certain tasks including downtime will take you a long way too.

      If you have developed some techniques to help with precrastination, I’d love it if you shared them in the comments below.

    3. Black Ink Friday 2019

      Last year I had an idea but it didn’t get off the ground in time. The idea was Black Ink Friday, a sketchnote replacement for Black Friday. This year, I’m going public, I want you to help me start a new holiday tradition.

      What is Black Ink Friday?

      Instead of shopping, I want you to make a sketchnote, using only black ink (get it), of alternative activities to shopping. That way not only have you got a focus for your sketchnotes today, but maybe we’ll inspire some non-sketchnoters to make the most of what they already have.

      We were heavily inspired by Buy Nothing Day and REI with their #OptOutside campaign. Instead of the mad rushes in shops, or the constant staring at a screen for the best online sales, Black Ink Friday gives you a shopping free focus for the day.

      How can I get involved in Black Ink Friday?

      The one rule for Black Ink Friday (November 29, 2019) is you can only use Black Ink — it’s in the name. Other than that, it’s up to you, but we do have four possible prompts for you.

      1. Sketchnote an activity which is an alternative to Black Friday Shopping
      2. Sketchnote an activity you love doing (that isn’t shopping)
      3. Sketchnote about your thanksgiving
      4. Sketchnote about Buy Nothing Day

      Those are just our suggestions, if you have a fresh alternative idea then go for it!

      When you’re finished, share your sketchnote with #BlackInkFriday and tag me on Twitter (@MrChrisJWilson) or Instagram (@Sketchnotr). I’ll retweet what I see and may even make a blog post wrap up.

      Ready to join in?

      This Friday — November 29, 2019 — get your favorite black Ink out and join in with #BlackInkFriday

      P.s. If you want to share photos of people taking part in Black Ink Friday and not shopping, then that’s cool too.