• 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. 7 Habits of Highly Effective Sketchnoters

      Yes, I stole the 7 lessons from Stephen Covey’s classic book and applied them to sketchnoting. They don’t fit neatly in some cases, but it’s a bit of fun and a creative exercise.


      1. Be proactive

      Don’t try to think of how to sketch in the moment.

      Build a bank of ideas (a visual library) which you can draw upon (pun intended) when you need them.

      If you know a topic, learn the key concepts and practice them.

      2. Begin with the end in mind

      Before you start your sketchnote, listen for clues to the structure.

      If you know this talk has 3 main points, you can plan a layout with 3 sections.

      If you know it will be a 1hr talk, don’t take up 90% of your space in the first 10 minutes.

      3. Put first things first

      You don’t have to get every detail down in the moment.

      Capture the main point or a reminder and you can add details later.

      4. Think win/win

      Highly effective sketchnoters are community members.

      They know there are plenty of great ideas and job opportunities. We can all share and help each other without harming ourselves.

      5. Seek first to understand then to be understood

      Sketchnoting is more about understanding than art skills.

      Make sure you’ve understood the speaker before putting pen to paper.

      And focus on clear, easy to understand images.

      6. Synergies

      A synergy is the combination of two things to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

      This can happen when we combine both text and words as elements in sketchnotes.

      We gain clear words that evoke stronger feelings.

      7. Sharpen the saw

      The best sketchnoters are constantly developing, growing and learning.

      The goal isn’t to be perfect, but to be always learning.

      • Try different styles,
      • Set limits,
      • Use new tools

      But above all, have fun.

      Recap – 7 habits of highly effective sketchnoters

      1. Be proactive
      2. Begin with the end in mind
      3. Put first things first
      4. Think win/win
      5. Seek first to understand then to be understood
      6. Synergies
      7. Sharpen the saw

      Which did you find the most interesting? 

    2. 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.

      Introducing the misinformation effect

      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

      Two groups watch a video of a car accident and were asked 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 2nd group falsely remembered broken glass when asked a week [Loftus EF 1975].

      Misinformation isn’t always propaganda

      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 propagandists use 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?

      A simple action to help 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.

    3. Anchoring is a well-known trick marketers use to convince people to buy. 
      But we can use it on ourselves to make better decisions. Here’s how. 

      What is anchoring?

      Anchoring is a cognitive bias where our perceptions change based on what we see something compared to — the anchor point.

      Marketers often anchor prices e.g.

      • $10 book or $99 course (expensive)
      • $1000 workshop or $99 online course (bargain!)

      So how can we use it?

      Create your own anchors to combat marketers

      Whenever you see an item with an anchor, write down alternative options to create new anchors. Why?

      Writing forces us to slow down and really consider the points. It puts a blocker on those impulsive thoughts and activates our slower thinking systems.

      Plus by adding a new anchor you can pull yourself in another direction.

      So now instead of the limited options the marketers wants to present you with, you have a whole new set.

      Make better decision by anchoring your options.

      So next time you see an offer compared with one other option, stop.

      Write down alternative options at different price points, ease of access, time required, etc. Then consider what you could do with the time, money, or hassle you’d save taking another option.

      Maybe the time that more expensive option would save you is of great benefit for you, but maybe you could use the money you’d say for another purchase that would benefit you even more.

    4. 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.

    5. Gates’ Law [Sketchnote]

      “Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years.” – Bill Gates

      Gates law

      The works on a smaller scale as well. People often plan more than they can possibly manage to do in a day, but then underestimate what they can do in a week or month. This is due to our poor natural ability to predict how much time a task will take to complete so we calculate that we could complete more tasks. On the other side, we fail to take into account The compound effect which leads to incredible results in the long run (even if we don’t complete as many tasks).

      Improving our day to day predictions

      Two time management techniques can help us avoid overestimating what we can do day to day.

      • the big rocks system where we set only three main tasks to complete
      • Estimating the time of tasks before we attempt a task, and then time tracking to evaluate our predictions so we can improve our predictions in the long run.

      Making the most of the compound effect

      Understanding the compound effect should encourage us to focus on regular small actions (or Atomic Habits) that we regularly do and provide these compound benefits. If we do that, we can gain the long term benefits of tiny actions.