Companies all over the world struggle to turn good ideas into great products. That’s partly because, as we all know, the early stages of the product lifecycle can be messy. You probably have a lot of ideas but maybe not a good grasp on what separates the good ideas from the sea of bad ones and a system in place to make those ideas a reality.
Effective management of ideation and discovery is key to reigning in the chaos of product innovation in the early stages of the lifecycle. We all know that ideation is the process of generating and capturing ideas relating to new products, services, features and user experiences in a structured way. Sounds simple, right? But the fact is, effective ideation – the kind that leads to successful products – is not that simple. There are a lot of factors working against you in the early stages of the product lifecycle that you may not be aware of. If you don’t tackle these enemies head on, you are wasting your time and money on ideas and products that will ultimately go nowhere.
Enemy #1: Unfocused objective – Edgy is better than fuzzy.
There is a widely accepted belief that creative activities should be loose, free and unrestrained by process and structure. In terms of ideation, that is only true to a point. The ideation and discovery stage of the product lifecycle is most effective when there is a defined purpose. This takes intentional organization and planning. Your ideation sessions need to begin with a well-honed statement of the stakeholder’s problem. What are you trying to solve? What do users need help with? What are their pain points? To even have a chance at success, your new product needs to deliver real value over other available options. You are unlikely to get there without an idea of what your stakeholders want and a close examination of the current market conditions.
Enemy #2: Resources – Ideation is a team sport.
If you look back into history, you can see that biggest innovations are often attributed to a single person. But some of the greatest innovators including Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla would tell you that they rarely work alone in the process. Effective ideation relies on the diversity of ideas that are created to solve a single problem. This often comes from creatively diverse participants each with different skill sets and knowledge.
For example, if you put a bunch of engineers in a room for an ideation session, you may get a really cool technology-driven solution to your users’ problem. But is that idea user friendly? What does the market look like? What are competitors doing? Different perspectives including market research, product management, regulatory, finance and industrial designers can help you form a more complete concept in the early stages of the product lifecycle.
Enemy #3: Culture – Why you are your own worst enemy.
One of the biggest challenges companies face is bringing new products to market in a timely manner. This is most often due to a lack of a systematic, enterprise level product lifecycle management solution to seamlessly take ideas and turn them into products and services at scale. A formal ideation and discovery process can ensure that ideas are not just generated but actually brought to life. Repeatable and scalable innovation requires a combination of leadership, product management, process alignment and technology. If these four factors are aligned, not only will you get your product to market, you have a much better chance at success.
Enemy #4: Time – Innovation doesn’t happen overnight.
Effective ideation and discovery comes from informed observations, business intelligence and customer knowledge. You need to understand the problem, industry and the unaddressed needs of your users and leverage your ideas to help formulate a high level product concept. In short, what you need is time. We see clients spend anywhere from three to eight weeks in the ideation and discovery phase of the product lifecycle. Why? If you are spending millions of dollars on launching a new product, it shouldn’t be a guessing game.
Ideation and discovery is an exciting time in the product lifecycle. It’s a chance for your company to explore all possible opportunities for innovation. But it’s also an easy time to fall prey to these enemies and waste valuable time and money on failed ideas. Success in the early stages of the product lifecycle comes from informed observations, business intelligence and customer knowledge. This strategic approach to innovation means ideation is not a shot in the dark, but instead an informed decision making process to improve your odds in today’s competitive market.