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[Community] Managing the Ideation Process for Product Managers

Posted by Alok Chowdhury on May 5, 2016 10:00:14 AM

3 minute read

 

ideation process

The goal of ideation is not to develop thousands of ideas or features, but the one that can be the big one. There seems to be a myth that innovation stems from an idea. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We believe the idea is a result of a structured innovation process and not the start of one.

In layman’s terms, ideation is the process of spawning and developing new ideas to improve your product or to solve a problem. The question is - how does your organization invest in ideation and why is this important for your company’s growth?

Smart Preparation

A successful ideation process comes down to having comprehensive, participatory and relevant planning. The trick is only to bite off what you can comfortably chew. The last thing you want is to assign work meant for a number of employees to one person and expect him/her to come up with breakthrough ideas.

Tailor your online ideation group to include members of your online customer community, company stakeholders and other groups that you feel may be beneficial to the process. You may choose to host a private or public ideation platform to learn what customers want from your product or service and discover new ideas.

After identifying the participants:

  • Give each person an assignment. This will encourage your ideation team to put themselves in the shoes of your existing, potential and target customers and to focus on their feelings and emotions towards your brand.
  • Focus point. This will be the primary topic. Let everyone in your team familiarize with the topic and come up with creative points of discussion.

Finding the Next Great Idea

The community puts the traditional ideation process on its head. By connecting the product manager with internal and external communities in real-time, you have a bottom-up process that accelerates concept development.

Traditionally, delegated to people within the company - usually product managers or engineers, the new process of engaging customers in your community platform brings a certain level of democracy that provides immediate feedback. With your customers and employees sharing thoughts, suggestions and commenting on each other’s contribution, there is a great potential for crowdsourcing the perfect feature or product idea.

However, a challenge can be where only the most vocal customers get heard and the rest get lost in the noise. To counteract this, the initial process of developing the idea follows a five-step iteration:

  • Identifying the business problem. Start with the focus on a business need or problem to solve. Communicate the context to the ideation group.
  • Seed the conversation. To get things going, the PM should start the conversation with open-ended questions or communicate the ideation framework that helps participants with a clear vision on what needs to be done.
  • Participation with a focus. Ideally, the community members will be self-moderated, however, the challenge is making sure that every participant gets a chance to be heard. An experienced community manager in conjunction with the product manager can direct the conversation together. Community members discuss and develop ideas until it’s been refined and valuable to the organization.
  • Gamification or reward good ideas. By rewarding or grading contributions within the community through a gamification process can help refine the wheat from the chaff. Of course, badges or other rewards should be used responsibly and the rules clearly defined on when to use. Responsibility of the rewards can lie with the product manager if needs be.
  • Idea review. The product management team can be tempted to review only ideas that get a certain number of “promotes”. Although it does help manage the noise, harvesting deeper in the pile can reveal great gems. Voting from the community members helps ascertain the level of interest but interest does not always equate fit. Remember that often people don’t know what they need. Focus on the reasons why they want something.

Not every innovative idea is a home run, but even some of your ideas that don’t make it into a live environment can spur others that do. Without the ideation process and a creative team to explore initial ideas and opportunities, you wouldn’t be able to move to the next level and shift the thinking around what your organization can do in an impactful way.

Ideation cannot be done just to do something “cool”; it should have a purpose. It must be well planned for because if it’s not, it will often fall short.

Topics: Community

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