In today’s world where the intersection of tech advancements and user needs makes us reinvent the way we work day by day, ideas have become one of the most valuable things to trade and possess. Tech has hardly any limitations, allowing you to create anything at any scale almost instantly. But it all starts with an idea and idea generation. When you’re actively trying to come up with the next Spotify, Slack or Trello, it may seem like all great ideas have already been used up.
How companies find and develop new product ideas
This is never true. Google, Apple, YouTube, and other world-changing companies haven’t gotten that far due to sheer luck but revolutionary ideas. There were other search engines, phones, and streaming services. But they lacked something important, something that won the market for the small bunch of enthusiasts. Their ideas have hit the bull’s eye at that time and paved the way to the current success.
But how are the ideas born? No lamp is lit above our heads, no apple is hanging above, ready to fall. Ideas are worked out through commitment and determination. Even the sudden epiphany doesn’t appear out of the blue. It resulted from our unconsciousness, finally putting together things we were uploading to it during brainstorms, reading books, and looking around. Like any process of our brain, idea generation can be harnessed and trained.
Let’s see what sources we can use to fill our brains with raw ideas.
What is idea generation in product development?
Idea generation is an intended search aimed at finding new product development opportunities. It usually means coming up with a list of ideas or multiple versions of a single idea to be examined. Idea generation consists of such steps as identifying criteria for choosing the best one, listing all the ideas, finding the most appropriate one from the list and then, developing that idea to be usable.
Top 5 sources of idea generation for product development
1. Let your users do the dirty work
There are always issues to solve. Even the oversaturated market has a niche that hasn’t been claimed yet. Like a treasure island, it waits to be found and charted. Often the way to it is obvious, but no one pays attention.
Look at the reviews of your or your competitors’ clients. Browse through the clients’ forums and Facebook groups. You may find a common problem that bothers them and can be a reason to give four stars out of 5 to the product. As a product manager from Self-Starters advises, search for these little “but” and “if only” words. Think about what you can do to eliminate them in your products. Just a little change in the design, a slight shift, or a seemingly insignificant feature can be a game-breaker.
Sometimes the potential customers can unknowingly present you with the most fantastic idea of your company’s history. It may seem odd or too absurd to be made; you may even skip it as unrealistic at first. But if you suddenly feel that tingle of “what if..?”, give it a chance. Let the professional designers play with this idea, give it a new shape or purpose. The flying skateboard has become a reality already, remember?
For example, Quora reviews and Kickstarter ideas may be the infinite source of people’s ideas, wishes, complaints, and suggestions. Just have a look at Datacamp: the app for learning data skills. There was a high demand for learning data analytics skills without earning a degree and many people have been asking for such a solution on different platforms like Quora or Reddit. And the company launched their app for learning such skills on the go.
2. Feel the trends
Being ahead of the trends is the best possible way to do business, but you can’t create something revolutionary every season. You don’t need to. The existing trends may give you enough ideas to not only stay afloat but turn the tide and create your hypertrend or countertrend. Was there something interesting at the recent expo? Something that got way more attention than expected? Check it out and make something of similar style, but cooler, better, and sexier! Everyone is hyping around the single top-notch thing? It will become dull, ordinary, and outdated too soon; think ahead and start preparing the opposite trend to lead it!
The trendy currents may float everywhere: on Instagram, TikTok, Reddit or on the streets. Don’t limit yourself with your professional sphere of interests: combine the uncombinable, borrow ideas from whole new sources, and you’ll become the trendsetter of your industry.
A simple and non-world-class example: COLLAR Company, a pet product manufacturer, created pet accessories with space design right before the Crew Dragon flight. The sales of space-themed collars and leashes skyrocketed just because of the clever use of the out-of-industry trends.
3. Try new markets
Sometimes being a winner in your domain just isn’t enough. Expanding to new markets may look like a significant risk of being associated with old products, but it is sometimes inevitable. The current products may get outdated, or the whole industry may decline because of the new technologies. The brightest idea here might be to change your focus and try something new. The Motorola company did it several times, and it worked perfectly.
Another reason to think about the new horizons is being an absolute leader in your segment. When you have nothing to add but don’t want to get stuck until your competitors sharpen their teeth, move forward in the unexpected direction! Did you know that Red Bull has an enormous media company that brings it lots of money? For most people, the Red Bull logo is still associated with the drink only, but they have already successfully introduced themselves to the media market.
4. Ask your UI/UX designer & researcher
It’s their job to generate ideas, right? You may feel like you didn’t hear from them for a while, so just visit them and ask about the current direction. Perhaps you have some thoughts for them to play with or you have a direct problem and need something truly stunning to deal with it. Perhaps you just need a few improvements that will make your product a bestseller.
If you don’t have a researcher on your team (or want them to try something new), try the idea generation methods described by Victor Papanek in his “Design for the real world” book. This industrial designer’s handbook offers several ways to make brand new ideas come into your head. If you feel that you are stuck and just return to the same old set of thoughts, again and again, it may be your chance to break the vicious cycle.
5. Your dev team/product team
They are making stuff you monetize, and they know all the quirks, downsides, and features more than anyone else. Maybe your testers have something to say; maybe your developers have an idea of production optimization. Ask them, and you might learn a whole lot of facts about your product in action.
Being kind and sincere to your team and being a benevolent manager, in general, opens a great source of information for you. If your team isn’t afraid to talk to you and sometimes even to argue with you, you’ll benefit from their areas of expertise. You can’t know everything; your dev team can’t know everything. Having dozens of eyes and brains willing to check and improve is much better than having just hands doing what they are told.
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Handpicked ideas for your idea generation journey
The flow of new ideas is the bloodstream of any business. Even the best product may (and eventually will) be overthrown by the competitors or forgotten by clients. You need to search for new solutions every day, and you don’t have to be alone here. Hopefully, these extra five sources added to your creativity will lead you to something the whole world will benefit from.
About the author: Nancy Kelly is a content creator at self-starters.com, the project about gaining tech skills online. She is interested in UX design and technology and always watches trends in these fields. Moreover, she loves to write, all the process from the research to publishing a new blog post.
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