„Ideas are a commodity.“ (Michael Dell)

Dear all,

this morning‘s German Business daily “Handelsblatt” claimed that one of the two key questions the CHRO of a well-known Bavarian carmaker asks candidates is „How do I make an idea big and scale it?“

Maybe it’s because I work mostly with Engineering- and IT-teams instead of „proper product teams“. But I am party to way too many discussions that gyrate around ideas, be that „product-ideas“ or „feature-ideas“.

However, neither products nor their features should be built on ideas in the first place. If you recall my Weekend Reading about Product Management: „A Product is a combination of goods and services that fulfill understood stakeholder needs.“

When I inquire in the above discussions about the stakeholder need supposedly underlying the „product“ or „feature“ being discussed, I often get some mumbo-jumbo as an answer.

If I press on, someone almost inevitably will suggest confirming the requirement with a quick customer survey. However, most surveys or traditional market research won’t tell you anything useful about user-, customer-, or any other stakeholder’s needs and problems.

The most successful entrepreneurs of our lifetime, Steve Jobs „We do no market research.“ and Jeff Bezos „…market research and customer surveys can become proxies for customers – something that’s especially dangerous when you’re inventing and designing products.“ are adamant about this.

More importantly, Tony Ulwick, one of the fathers of the jobs-to-be-done theory, claims that„The ideas-first approach is inherently flawed…“ and shows on the basis of meta-research that „…the success rates of traditional innovation processes average 17%…“.

The only way to understand your stakeholders is to step into their shoes. Reframe your ideas as questions. Separate problem and solution (idea) space. Search for the outcomes wanted.

Ideas only come into play once a need stakeholders will consider worth solving is thoroughly understood.

Some practical routes to get there:

5 ways to reframe a solution to a problem statement

Nikki Anderson shares how to turn solutions into problem statements.

Click to view!

Understand the Problem Space

The U of Washington’s practical approach to uncovering what makes a product useful.
Click to view!

Lean Market Validation: 10 Ways to Rapidly Test Your Startup Idea

By Product Plan founder Jim Semick. By no means limited to startup ideas!

Click to view!

You may also want to consider using our Product Vision Tool to sharpen your product’s definition in the first place.

Enjoy the weekend while COVID incidence rates are still low…