Did you ever hear about the toothbrush test? The term is attributed to Alphabet’s CEO, Larry Page. And, as you may guess, it has nothing to do at all with a shiny white smile. The Google co-founder uses the test for determining whether a company is worth buying – which is always a complex and risky assessment to make.
As an alternative to diving into the nitty-gritty of revenue projections, cash flow forecasts, and profitability analyses, the test consists of this simple question:
“Is the company’s product or service something people will use once or twice a day, and does it solve a problem or make their life better?”
If I was asked for an opinion about my own toothbrush, the outcome would definitely be “yes.”
In this case, the toothbrush is used as a metaphor for usefulness and long-term value, in contrast to short-term RoI. Of course, one must be a business genius to make such an important decision based upon such a simple question. Please, note that I’m not naïve; you don’t have to convince me that Google’s people carry out a lot of due diligence beyond the toothbrush inquiry.
In an older post I wrote that simplicity always works. Life (and business) can be made so much easier than it is today, if you enable decision-making by asking simple questions, and effective communications by telling compelling stories.
Similar to Larry Page’s toothbrush test, I started using something I call the Bambi test. When preparing a public presentation, I ask myself the question below:
“Will people remember my words (or my visuals) two days from now, and did they get emotionally involved?”
I got inspired to use the Bambi metaphor after observing my kids watching Disney’s famous movie scene with Bambi and Thumper sliding on the icy pond. And like for the toothbrush one, the answer to the question would certainly be a “yes!” (Note to my sons Yannick and Robin: if you read this text, which you probably won’t, this was of course loooooong time ago…)
- In Silicon Valley, Mergers Must Meet the Toothbrush Test (by David Gelles in the New York Times)