Where Do Great Product Ideas Come From?
The information technology industry is clearly no longer a field for a few select big players. Gone are the days where a few Internet service providers reigned the market. The current trend is that of survival of the fittest, where players thrive based on success factors such as releases of new products that are feature rich, user experience driven, and performance focused—whether developed internally or through partnerships.
That brings us to the question of where do you get your product ideas from? The market space has typically been fragmented where you have leaders who pioneer in a given domain, technology, or platform—and then you have the followers who may not have the advantage of the leaders but may be able to take more stable and researched bets learning from the leader’s experiences.
In recent years we have been seeing this strategy at play in areas such as mobile computing, cloud computing, e-readers, tablets, search domain, and social networking platforms. We have been seeing industry leaders such as Bill Gates comment about how even companies as big as Microsoft have fallen short in gaining a lead in specific domains.
Besides looking at this question at the market level, if we were to look at this internally, ideas can flow in from multiple places. There are instances where product ideas continue to be generated by top management, including CEOs. The business, product management, and product ideation teams continue to be important sources to funnel in product ideas, especially given their close interaction with the field.
Testers are great resources to pitch in on feature ideas, if not necessarily product ideas, because of their close interaction with end users and analysis of competitors. For that matter, when empowered, any individual on the product team can contribute to newer ideas.
Think tanks, as illustrated in the video below, are common in large companies where specific times are set aside to allow employees to wear their thinking caps and submit proposals for new product ideas.
At Microsoft this is very popular, and several such ideas have taken shape as full-fledged products. Such practices bring a positive outlook—improving employee morale, helping the company stay competitive and non-complacent, and building a more loyal user-base for the brand.
That said, to realize these benefits, it is important to prioritize ideas that flow in and take a hard look at them from various standpoints: market and technology trends, alignment with the company’s vision, investments to be made, and the ranking of ideas that have come in.
Whatever your product idea sources are, working in a collaborative manner with your employees and users and trying to maintain transparency to whatever levels possible will preserve an open culture in the organization and encourage a voluntary and free flow of feedback.
After all, whether referring to a company or an individual, the words of Steve Jobs—“Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”—are very relevant to give you an edge in today’s competitive world.