“Scientific thinking” probably isn’t a term you’d associate with the world of pet furniture. The pet products industry is full of superfluous features and maximalist designs. But Tuft and Paw is doing things a bit differently.
Founder Jackson Cunningham explained in an email interview with Small Business Trends, “My girlfriend and I are cat people. In 2015 we went on a trip to South America and saw stray cats being treated like common pests so it was on our radar to create a business that could give back to the cat community. A few months later, when we adopted our cat Peppers, we saw there was a huge opportunity to offer better cat furniture. We live in a small space in Vancouver where rent is extremely expensive. We’re super careful about all the furniture we include in our home, yet the options for cat furniture were just atrocious. Things you wouldn’t even *think* to consider unless they were “pet” furniture. Given my ecommerce background and our recent trip to South America, it felt like the perfect idea to start tuft and paw.”
In order to do things a bit differently, Cunningham had to employ some scientific thinking techniques. That means approaching a problem with questions and then attempting to answer them in a logical way, rather than just putting together products in the same format as others available on the market. He calls this the “basic principles” approach.
Cunningham explains, “Even for something as simple as cat furniture, you can ask simple questions like “what makes a cat happy?”, “why do cats scratch?” which ultimately lead you to question why things are done a certain way (i.e. why are scratching posts all shaped the same way when it’s healthier for cats to scratch at many different angles? Why not make a pyramid scratching post?)”
Using Scientific Thinking in Business
After the initial product development, Tuft and Paw also employs a scientific approach to decision making by utilizing data to stay informed.
Cunningham says, “We look at search query volume and sales data to help determine the new products we should add to our catalog. We also validate ideas all the time before taking larger risks. Sometimes we will list a product for preorder on our site and unless we get enough sales volume, we can prevent investing time and money into a losing product.”
However, part of scientific thinking is actually using the data that you collect. It’s not just about looking at data and analyzing it, but also about using it to inform decisions and taking action.
Cunningham explains, “I think it’s very easy these days to get stuck in analysis paralysis. There’s too much research to do, too much to test and so you end up procrastinating by doing a bunch of little busywork tasks. I think you need to take action as soon as possible, figure out what your main barriers is each day and work on solving that so you can move forward.”
These methods don’t just apply to Tuft and Paw or the pet products industry. You can apply scientific thinking to your own business in a number of ways.
First, approach your product or service from the perspective of a scientific researcher. Ask what questions you’re looking to solve and then approach the solutions in a completely logical way rather than jumping to conclusions based on what other companies are doing.
Then, set up a system for collecting and analyzing data — then using that data to take real, concrete steps toward your goals. Determine what kinds of data you need to measure and then figure out what steps you may need to take with any potential result. In this way, scientific thinking can really help you avoid simply going through the motions and allow you to build something that really stands out.
Images: Tuft and Paw
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