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Ideation is one of the best tools that your community can have simply because some of the best ideas for your products come from your biggest fans.

Managing the ideation process, however, can be a challenge since there are likely hundreds, if not, thousands of ideas for product improvements and future product developments. The challenge then becomes how to actually find the best ideas - it can be similar to trying to find a needle in a haystack if you don't have a process in place.

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10 min

Sarah Robinson-Yu
Todd Burry

Managing the Community Ideation Process for Product Managers

8 minute read

October 9, 2020

Ideation is one of the best tools that your community can have simply because some of the best ideas for your products come from your biggest fans.

Managing the ideation process, however, can be a challenge since there are likely hundreds, if not, thousands of ideas for product improvements and future product developments. The challenge then becomes how to actually find the best ideas - it can be similar to trying to find a needle in a haystack if you don't have a process in place.Ideation is best defined as the process involved in generating ideas, including gathering information on ideas and collecting thoughts about those ideas. Ideation is used to make improvements to existing products or services, in addition to generating new ideas and concepts for future developments.

Just to recap one of our previous blogs on ideation, the four main benefits of implementing an ideation process in your community are: 

  • Ability to generate ideas to improve products and services

  • Ability to generate ideas for future product/service development

If you want to learn more about ideation itself as a concept and its benefits, I'd recommend taking a quick read of this blog - it'll give you a good foundation for the rest of this article.

Now, back to how to actually manage the ideation process for Product Managers. 

Let's dive in.

Centralize The Ideation Section

As a Product Manager, you'll have to work closely with the Community Manager and the community team to ensure that your ideation section is easy to find for members. The last thing you want is to have awesome ideas sprinkled into a thread that you can't even find.

You want to be able to know:

a) when a new idea has been posted

b) where you can easily find it, and;

c) where members can easily find it to provide feedback or expand on that idea

Ultimately, the first step in a successful ideation process comes down to planning. You can't evaluate any ideas if you can't find them.

King Community Forum

The image above is from the King Community Forum. As you can see, King provides a specific section for community members to share ideas. This centralized ideation section not only points community members in the right direction, but it also saves the King Team the time and effort of having to look through discussions and threads to find the best ideas.

Centralizing your ideation section as a Product Manager will make your job a whole lot easier. 

Designate Resources

When I talk about resources, I'm talking about people and time. You need to make sure that the amount of resources that you dedicate to evaluating these ideas are proportionate to the potential payoff that a great idea can have and to the size of your community relative to the number of members on your team.

The trick is to not over-invest resources, or under-invest resources. Sounds tricky, but it's nothing that can't be tested and then reiterated later on until you find your perfect rhythm.

Last but certainly not least is one additional resource that you'll want to put into the equation: your community members themselves. They are the only resource that you don't have to "designate."

Let your members do most of the work for you - give them the tools to "upvote" ideas and comment on them. At the end of the day, your team can siphon through the ideas that are the most popular, saving time and money.

Promote Great Ideas

When you discover an idea that you think carries its weight, promote it to the community to make sure that it doesn't get lost as new ideas come in. You might think the idea is great, but you want to make sure that your community has a chance to provide feedback on the idea as well.

A great way to promote the top ideas in your ideation section is through implementing gamification elements into your community. 

In case you aren't familiar with what gamification is, it's broadly defined as the application of game mechanics into other things that are traditionally non-game related, with the goal of increasing user engagement.

Strategic Community Gamification

To learn more about gamification and how it can help your ideation process, I'd recommend reading this blog on the basics of gamification

Some of the best gamification features to promote ideation in your community include:

1) A Leaderboard: A leaderboard allows users who have great ideas to shine. A leaderboard will be beneficial to your ideation process in two ways:

  • It will allow your best ideas to remain on the front page of the ideation webpage so that all members can see them and provide feedback.
  • It will bring out the competitive nature of your members and naturally act as an incentive to participate and provide excellent ideas.

2) Rewarding Great Ideas: Rewards are another aspect of gamification that will provide your members with incentive to introduce new ideas and provide feedback. These rewards could be as simple as a badge or a spot on the leaderboard. For the best ideas that are actually implemented, you could even go the extra mile and send the member a real item, thanking them for their great idea. People love rewards, and incentives work!

Direct The Conversation When Needed

As a Product Manager, don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. Jump into the conversations and ask leading questions to direct the conversation when needed.

There are both benefits and drawbacks involved when seeding the conversation, both of which carry reasonable merit. It's really up to you to determine the end goal of your ideation process to know whether you should lead, or lean back.

Benefits of Seeding the Conversation

When you seed the conversation and ask leading questions, you're really pointing your members in the general direction that you want them to go. In most cases, you'll want to lead the conversation if you are looking to solve a particular business problem. 

As a Product Manager, you can seed the conversation by starting with open-ended questions or communicate the ideation framework that helps participants understand what needs to be done and the goals you are looking to accomplish.

Drawbacks of Seeding the Conversation

Again, depending on your business goals with your ideation section, you might just want to lean back and let the community run the conversation. This is the best strategy when you just want to hear innovative and exploratory ideas, in addition to new concepts.

Unlike seeding the conversation, which puts your members "in-a-box" so to speak, letting your community lead the conversation means that the sky is the limit. This means that while you'll sometimes get outlandish and weird ideas, you'll also receive some of the most amazing ideas possible.

I, personally, prefer out-of-the-box thinking.

Introduce The Best Ideas

The last step in managing the ideation process is to introduce the best ideas to your engineers, since they'll likely be the ones to implement the ideas. As a Product Manager, you'll know which ideas would be beneficial, but now you'll need the technical expertise - is this idea actually feasible? How long would it take to implement? Does it require other adjustments or alterations to other features?

These are things you'll need to know from your engineers before you present these ideas to the executive team for approval.

Not every innovative idea will be a home run, but even great ideas that don’t make it into a live environment can spur others that do. The ideation process lets your creative team explore a number of amazing ideas from the people who know your product the best and provide you with opportunities to capitalize on. 

How King Uses The Ideation Process

King, as we briefly mentioned above, does an excellent job with their ideation process. Ideation was actually a new element to their community forum, introduced in 2018 when King made the Vanilla Switch and revamped their community. The ideation element, among other community features they implemented, led to amazing results, and King saw a 2x boost in community engagement.

As Graham Henderson, the Associate Director of Player Community, explains, "with the ideation feature, we actually increased the number of ideas within the community space and gave other players the opportunity to vote on those ideas, which in turn, made those ideas more relevant when we spoke to the studio."

 
Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 8.21.16 AM

 

The image above shows a snapshot of their ideation page, and as you can see, the page is managed very well. King marks ideas as "declined" or "active," which provides great transparency to the community and those who contribute.

Further, the upvotes, as mentioned by Graham, are used by not only the community members, but are also used as indicators to the King Team as to what ideas should be discussed with the studio.

Ultimately, managing the ideation process can be a rewarding endeavour since it's kind of like searching for a diamond in the rough. You never really know what amazing ideas you'll stumble across!

You just need to make sure that you have the right processes in place so that you have the right tools to find these gems.

 
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Sarah Robinson-Yu

Written by Sarah Robinson-Yu

Sarah is the Content Marketing Specialist at Vanilla Forums. Prior to Vanilla, Sarah worked in the public sector where she led and coordinated the strategic framework and operational policy development of business processes.

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