Product Management

Product Ideation Process & 8 Effective Techniques for Your Team

Content Writer

Athira V S

September 18, 2023

9 mins read

Product Ideation Process & 8 Effective Techniques for Your Team

Did you know that 42% of startups fail because there's no market need for their products? They could have avoided this if they had done thorough research before creating a product.

But before the development process, there's another vital process: product ideation.

People outside the product industry often think that great ideas come up spontaneously when you're least expecting them. While that can sometimes be true, it's often not the case.

In fact, product ideation is a collaborative and structured process of gathering new ideas at a scale. In this article, we share the best product ideation techniques to try out.

What is product ideation?

Product ideation is the process of generating, selecting, and implementing new product ideas. 

Imagine a team at a tech company tasked with developing a new smartwatch or improving the existing one. During the ideation session, team members can brainstorm various features and functionalities that could set their smartwatch apart from competitors. 

By encouraging diverse perspectives, open communication and iterative thinking, they can harness the power of ideation to create a successful and customer-centric product.

Why is product ideation important?

Product ideation is important for:

  • Product development: The ideation phase allows your space to come up with innovative solutions and create products tailored to your users’ needs. It’s essential for developing new products, improving existing ones and adding new features.
  • Customer retention: Product ideation helps you find better and more effective ways to solve your customers’ problems, which improves their experience, satisfaction, and loyalty to your brand.
  • Competitive advantage: Insights you gather during product ideation are priceless as they become what sets you apart in a highly competitive market or industry.
  • Team bonding: Finally, product ideation techniques are a great way to boost collaboration within your team and bring people closer. They can also be a fun activity that boosts creativity and problem-solving skills.

Product ideation process: key stages

Idea generation

This is the creative brainstorming part, and the goal is to come up with all possible ways to solve a particular problem. In other words, you want to gather as many creative ideas as possible. Don’t assess or evaluate ideas yet, just write them as they arise.

Prioritization

In this stage, we're evaluating ideas to see which ideas (or features) we should focus on first, based on their impact and available resources. There are various product prioritization frameworks to help you, such as:

  • Impact effort matrix
  • MoSCoW
  • RICE scoring etc.

Implementation

Before an actual product creation, you may want to build an MVP (minimum viable product) to test your ideas and gather feedback before you invest in building an actual product.

8 product ideation techniques to try

Brainstorming and brainwriting

This is often the first step of a product ideation process. It not only generates many ideas but can also serve as a warm-up exercise to engage the whole product team and start a discussion.

But what's the difference between these two ideation methods?

In brainstorming sessions, you participate as a team. One person suggests an idea and then you discuss them out loud.

However, some experts suggest this may not be the best way of developing innovative ideas. People tend to focus on the first few ideas generated, which prevents them from coming up with new and original ideas.

For example, Teressa Torres talks about it in her "Continuous Discovery Habits" book: "Study after study found that the individuals generating ideas alone outperformed the brainstorming groups. Individuals generated more ideas, more diverse ideas, and more original ideas."

That's why brainwriting might be a better method because it encourages all team members to come up with their own ideas. Everyone gets a piece of paper where they can anonymously write an idea.

Brainwriting stimulates everyone, even team members on the introverted side, to share their ideas without fear of judgment.

At the end of the session, the product manager takes all the ideas and groups, evaluates and prioritizes them.

Feature requests

User feedback is your goldmine for improving your product.

You should create a system for collecting user feedback and feature requests because your customers understand their own pain points and need better than anyone else.

There are three main types of feature requests:

  • New product features
  • Feature enhancements
  • Bug reports

When you gather enough requests, it's time to categorize them and prioritize product features to build. See whether there are similar features that you can group.

And then prioritize the features based on three factors:

  • How crucial is this feature?
  • Is it easy to build?
  • What percentage of customers expressed the need for it?

Read the complete guide on how to collect customer feedback and create a product feedback strategy.

Customer surveys, interviews and focus groups

A customer-centric approach is an essential part of successful product ideation. You can use it for generating ideas or evaluating hypotheses.

The exact technique you use will depend on the phase of your product development, in other words, whether you already have a product or not.

  1. If you already have a product, the best way is to create a system for collecting user feedback within the app. 
  2. If you don’t have a product, you must first define your target audience and find out where your potential users gather. You can often find them on forums, social media and various online communities, and you can distribute your survey there.

Surveys are the most cost-effective way to reach many people, making them ideal when a product is in the beginning stage or when you have limited resources. 

However, if you want to monitor user behavior or spark a discussion, organizing focus groups can be a good idea, which you can also do online. 

You can also organize 1:1 interviews with the people who have shown the most interest.

Finally, here are some tips for creating surveys and questionnaires:

  • Use open-ended questions without implying possible solutions. The goal of this activity is to broaden your pool of ideas as much as possible, and later there will be time for evaluation and filtering the ideas.
  • To increase your response rate, keep your surveys simple and quick. Avoid overwhelming users with too many questions.
  • Take enough time to properly analyze responses and use tools like Zeda.io to get AI-powered insights. 

Check out the essential questions to include in your product feedback survey.

“How might we” statements

Using “How might we” statements is a powerful technique to reframe user problems and turn them into opportunities for improvement.

Let's say you have an ecommerce store and struggle with abandoned cards and people rarely completing their purchases. Some of the possible questions would be:

  • How might we simplify the ordering process?
  • How might we incentivize them to buy?
  • How might we make them stay longer on our website?

Here is some guidance for implementing this technique:

  1. Go through user feedback and find problems they've detected.
  2. Generate as many “How might we” statements related to user problems.
  3. When creating statements, use positive language (if the problem is a lot of friction in your webshop, instead of asking, “How might we remove friction?”, it's better to ask, “How might we make the checkout process easier and faster?”).
  4. Avoid suggesting solutions in your question because that will shrink your pool of opportunities.

💡 Bonus tip: Instead of using words like "remove," "stop," or "reduce," use words related to positive outcomes like "improve," "enhance," "increase," etc.

Reverse thinking

This technique could help you generate new ideas and think outside the box when you're stuck.

First, clearly define a problem.

For example: According to customer feedback, the onboarding process on our app is too difficult.

Now, instead of trying to solve the problem, ask yourself the following:

"How can we make it even more difficult?"

We know that it sounds counterintuitive, but bear with us.

You might come up with ideas like adding more friction, adding extra steps, making UI more complex, etc.

Now, they may seem like bad ideas, but all you have to do is do the opposite. See? You've come up with some fresh ideas for product improvement, even though you weren't intentionally focusing on them!

Storyboarding

Storyboarding is a visual technique for mapping out user experience and interactions with our product.

Businesses usually use it for:

  • Product ideation
  • Improving UX
  • Mapping out the user's journey
  • Improving the existing product

The traditional storyboarding method consisted of creating drawings and illustrations for each step of the customer journey. Today when we mainly talk about digital products, you can replace drawings with screens.

You should create a flow or a sequence of screens representing the user's actions and interactions with your product. This will help you see any blind spots or room for improvement.

Storyboarding is an iterative process often used in the agile business for continuous improvement.

SCAMPER

SCAMPER is a framework that helps you improve existing solutions or ideas by changing your way of thinking and tweaking some areas.

It's an acronym that stands for:

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt
  • Modify
  • Put to another use
  • Eliminate
  • Reverse

Here are a few tips to help you implement each approach in product ideation:

  • Substitute: This approach focuses on finding alternatives that are less complicated, more cost-efficient etc. A question to ask is: Could we replace this feature with something else?
  • Combine: Is it possible to merge two features or steps into one? Would that help a user reach their goals faster and with less friction?
  • Adapt: How could you tweak a feature to be accessible to more users or meet your customers' needs even better?
  • Modify: Is there something that we need to change?
  • Put to another use: You don't have to start from scratch when building a new product. Instead, ask yourself this question: Can we take some features of our existing products and put them to another use in a new product we're creating?
  • Eliminate: Are there some things causing unnecessary friction that we could remove from the final version of the product? The magic is in simplicity!
  • Reverse: This is helpful when creating a user journey. Is there a more logical way to structure it? Could we change the order of some actions?

*In some cases, M stands for "magnify" or "minify." Consider whether you could magnify or exaggerate a particular idea and develop innovative solutions beyond what you first imagined. Or maybe you need to magnify a specific element, like a CTA button on your landing page, which could increase your conversion rate. 

On the other hand, you may need to minify something, such as some visual elements in your app, to make it more streamlined.

Mind mapping

You can use this technique for generating, organizing, and visually representing your ideas.

The product manager or leader starts by writing a problem you want to solve at the center of the paper. Then they invite other team members to start writing anything that comes to mind related to that problem.

It doesn't have to be a solution yet – it could be a phrase, idea or concept. When you've gathered enough ideas, it's time to connect them.

Check whether some ideas are overlapping or could be grouped. You can do so by drawing lines and connecting them or through color coding.

The beauty of mind mapping lies in its simplicity. You can always add more branches if you decide to explore a particular idea more in-depth.

Note: Did you know that almost 40% of employees said that the main problem in optimizing the customer journey is the lack of collaboration between departments in their company? Product managers should include all sectors in the product ideation process instead of just product teams.

How can Zeda.io improve your product ideation process?

Zeda.io is an AI-powered customer-centric tool that you can use through all phases of product discovery, from product ideation to developing and improving the product. Zeda.io promotes collaboration and provides you with a centralized customer feedback platform where you can store and analyze all information about your customers.

We aim to help you prioritize user feedback and decide which product to build next.

Here's how Zeda.io can help you in the product ideation process:

Conclusion

Now you have the techniques to help you create ideas and build products your customers will love. Of course, not every technique will work for everyone, so your team gets to decide what's your go-to product ideation method.

If you're wondering how to do product ideation at scale and where to keep all those product ideas if you need them later, we've got you covered. 

Sign up today to streamline your decision-making process with Zeda.io

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FAQs

What are the stages of product ideation?

The three main stages are idea generation, prioritization and implementation.

What are the 4 methods of ideation?

The most popular ideation methods are brainstorming, mind mapping, storyboarding and SCAMPER.

What is ideation with an example?

Product ideation involves coming up with as many ideas as possible for creating or improving a product. For example, a SaaS company notes that their digital alarm clock isn't suitable for new mothers because the sound will also wake the baby up. Then, the team has to develop new ideas for creating an alarm clock that meets the needs of this buyer persona, a mother with a newborn.

What are ideation tools?

Product ideation tools include mind maps, reverse thinking, feature requests and many more.

Product Management

Product Ideation Process & 8 Effective Techniques for Your Team

Athira V S
Content Writer
September 18, 2023
9 mins read
14-day free trial

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IN THIS ARTICLE:
  1. What are product discovery techniques?
  2. 8 key product discovery techniques link
  3. Conclusion
IN THIS ARTICLE:
  1. What are product discovery techniques?
  2. 8 key product discovery techniques link
  3. Conclusion

Did you know that 42% of startups fail because there's no market need for their products? They could have avoided this if they had done thorough research before creating a product.

But before the development process, there's another vital process: product ideation.

People outside the product industry often think that great ideas come up spontaneously when you're least expecting them. While that can sometimes be true, it's often not the case.

In fact, product ideation is a collaborative and structured process of gathering new ideas at a scale. In this article, we share the best product ideation techniques to try out.

What is product ideation?

Product ideation is the process of generating, selecting, and implementing new product ideas. 

Imagine a team at a tech company tasked with developing a new smartwatch or improving the existing one. During the ideation session, team members can brainstorm various features and functionalities that could set their smartwatch apart from competitors. 

By encouraging diverse perspectives, open communication and iterative thinking, they can harness the power of ideation to create a successful and customer-centric product.

Why is product ideation important?

Product ideation is important for:

  • Product development: The ideation phase allows your space to come up with innovative solutions and create products tailored to your users’ needs. It’s essential for developing new products, improving existing ones and adding new features.
  • Customer retention: Product ideation helps you find better and more effective ways to solve your customers’ problems, which improves their experience, satisfaction, and loyalty to your brand.
  • Competitive advantage: Insights you gather during product ideation are priceless as they become what sets you apart in a highly competitive market or industry.
  • Team bonding: Finally, product ideation techniques are a great way to boost collaboration within your team and bring people closer. They can also be a fun activity that boosts creativity and problem-solving skills.

Product ideation process: key stages

Idea generation

This is the creative brainstorming part, and the goal is to come up with all possible ways to solve a particular problem. In other words, you want to gather as many creative ideas as possible. Don’t assess or evaluate ideas yet, just write them as they arise.

Prioritization

In this stage, we're evaluating ideas to see which ideas (or features) we should focus on first, based on their impact and available resources. There are various product prioritization frameworks to help you, such as:

  • Impact effort matrix
  • MoSCoW
  • RICE scoring etc.

Implementation

Before an actual product creation, you may want to build an MVP (minimum viable product) to test your ideas and gather feedback before you invest in building an actual product.

8 product ideation techniques to try

Brainstorming and brainwriting

This is often the first step of a product ideation process. It not only generates many ideas but can also serve as a warm-up exercise to engage the whole product team and start a discussion.

But what's the difference between these two ideation methods?

In brainstorming sessions, you participate as a team. One person suggests an idea and then you discuss them out loud.

However, some experts suggest this may not be the best way of developing innovative ideas. People tend to focus on the first few ideas generated, which prevents them from coming up with new and original ideas.

For example, Teressa Torres talks about it in her "Continuous Discovery Habits" book: "Study after study found that the individuals generating ideas alone outperformed the brainstorming groups. Individuals generated more ideas, more diverse ideas, and more original ideas."

That's why brainwriting might be a better method because it encourages all team members to come up with their own ideas. Everyone gets a piece of paper where they can anonymously write an idea.

Brainwriting stimulates everyone, even team members on the introverted side, to share their ideas without fear of judgment.

At the end of the session, the product manager takes all the ideas and groups, evaluates and prioritizes them.

Feature requests

User feedback is your goldmine for improving your product.

You should create a system for collecting user feedback and feature requests because your customers understand their own pain points and need better than anyone else.

There are three main types of feature requests:

  • New product features
  • Feature enhancements
  • Bug reports

When you gather enough requests, it's time to categorize them and prioritize product features to build. See whether there are similar features that you can group.

And then prioritize the features based on three factors:

  • How crucial is this feature?
  • Is it easy to build?
  • What percentage of customers expressed the need for it?

Read the complete guide on how to collect customer feedback and create a product feedback strategy.

Customer surveys, interviews and focus groups

A customer-centric approach is an essential part of successful product ideation. You can use it for generating ideas or evaluating hypotheses.

The exact technique you use will depend on the phase of your product development, in other words, whether you already have a product or not.

  1. If you already have a product, the best way is to create a system for collecting user feedback within the app. 
  2. If you don’t have a product, you must first define your target audience and find out where your potential users gather. You can often find them on forums, social media and various online communities, and you can distribute your survey there.

Surveys are the most cost-effective way to reach many people, making them ideal when a product is in the beginning stage or when you have limited resources. 

However, if you want to monitor user behavior or spark a discussion, organizing focus groups can be a good idea, which you can also do online. 

You can also organize 1:1 interviews with the people who have shown the most interest.

Finally, here are some tips for creating surveys and questionnaires:

  • Use open-ended questions without implying possible solutions. The goal of this activity is to broaden your pool of ideas as much as possible, and later there will be time for evaluation and filtering the ideas.
  • To increase your response rate, keep your surveys simple and quick. Avoid overwhelming users with too many questions.
  • Take enough time to properly analyze responses and use tools like Zeda.io to get AI-powered insights. 

Check out the essential questions to include in your product feedback survey.

“How might we” statements

Using “How might we” statements is a powerful technique to reframe user problems and turn them into opportunities for improvement.

Let's say you have an ecommerce store and struggle with abandoned cards and people rarely completing their purchases. Some of the possible questions would be:

  • How might we simplify the ordering process?
  • How might we incentivize them to buy?
  • How might we make them stay longer on our website?

Here is some guidance for implementing this technique:

  1. Go through user feedback and find problems they've detected.
  2. Generate as many “How might we” statements related to user problems.
  3. When creating statements, use positive language (if the problem is a lot of friction in your webshop, instead of asking, “How might we remove friction?”, it's better to ask, “How might we make the checkout process easier and faster?”).
  4. Avoid suggesting solutions in your question because that will shrink your pool of opportunities.

💡 Bonus tip: Instead of using words like "remove," "stop," or "reduce," use words related to positive outcomes like "improve," "enhance," "increase," etc.

Reverse thinking

This technique could help you generate new ideas and think outside the box when you're stuck.

First, clearly define a problem.

For example: According to customer feedback, the onboarding process on our app is too difficult.

Now, instead of trying to solve the problem, ask yourself the following:

"How can we make it even more difficult?"

We know that it sounds counterintuitive, but bear with us.

You might come up with ideas like adding more friction, adding extra steps, making UI more complex, etc.

Now, they may seem like bad ideas, but all you have to do is do the opposite. See? You've come up with some fresh ideas for product improvement, even though you weren't intentionally focusing on them!

Storyboarding

Storyboarding is a visual technique for mapping out user experience and interactions with our product.

Businesses usually use it for:

  • Product ideation
  • Improving UX
  • Mapping out the user's journey
  • Improving the existing product

The traditional storyboarding method consisted of creating drawings and illustrations for each step of the customer journey. Today when we mainly talk about digital products, you can replace drawings with screens.

You should create a flow or a sequence of screens representing the user's actions and interactions with your product. This will help you see any blind spots or room for improvement.

Storyboarding is an iterative process often used in the agile business for continuous improvement.

SCAMPER

SCAMPER is a framework that helps you improve existing solutions or ideas by changing your way of thinking and tweaking some areas.

It's an acronym that stands for:

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt
  • Modify
  • Put to another use
  • Eliminate
  • Reverse

Here are a few tips to help you implement each approach in product ideation:

  • Substitute: This approach focuses on finding alternatives that are less complicated, more cost-efficient etc. A question to ask is: Could we replace this feature with something else?
  • Combine: Is it possible to merge two features or steps into one? Would that help a user reach their goals faster and with less friction?
  • Adapt: How could you tweak a feature to be accessible to more users or meet your customers' needs even better?
  • Modify: Is there something that we need to change?
  • Put to another use: You don't have to start from scratch when building a new product. Instead, ask yourself this question: Can we take some features of our existing products and put them to another use in a new product we're creating?
  • Eliminate: Are there some things causing unnecessary friction that we could remove from the final version of the product? The magic is in simplicity!
  • Reverse: This is helpful when creating a user journey. Is there a more logical way to structure it? Could we change the order of some actions?

*In some cases, M stands for "magnify" or "minify." Consider whether you could magnify or exaggerate a particular idea and develop innovative solutions beyond what you first imagined. Or maybe you need to magnify a specific element, like a CTA button on your landing page, which could increase your conversion rate. 

On the other hand, you may need to minify something, such as some visual elements in your app, to make it more streamlined.

Mind mapping

You can use this technique for generating, organizing, and visually representing your ideas.

The product manager or leader starts by writing a problem you want to solve at the center of the paper. Then they invite other team members to start writing anything that comes to mind related to that problem.

It doesn't have to be a solution yet – it could be a phrase, idea or concept. When you've gathered enough ideas, it's time to connect them.

Check whether some ideas are overlapping or could be grouped. You can do so by drawing lines and connecting them or through color coding.

The beauty of mind mapping lies in its simplicity. You can always add more branches if you decide to explore a particular idea more in-depth.

Note: Did you know that almost 40% of employees said that the main problem in optimizing the customer journey is the lack of collaboration between departments in their company? Product managers should include all sectors in the product ideation process instead of just product teams.

How can Zeda.io improve your product ideation process?

Zeda.io is an AI-powered customer-centric tool that you can use through all phases of product discovery, from product ideation to developing and improving the product. Zeda.io promotes collaboration and provides you with a centralized customer feedback platform where you can store and analyze all information about your customers.

We aim to help you prioritize user feedback and decide which product to build next.

Here's how Zeda.io can help you in the product ideation process:

Conclusion

Now you have the techniques to help you create ideas and build products your customers will love. Of course, not every technique will work for everyone, so your team gets to decide what's your go-to product ideation method.

If you're wondering how to do product ideation at scale and where to keep all those product ideas if you need them later, we've got you covered. 

Sign up today to streamline your decision-making process with Zeda.io

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