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App Development
8 minutes read

The Product Ideation Process Explained

By Jose Gomez
By Jose Gomez
App Development
8 minutes read

The product ideation process is an essential part of the lifecycle of any digital product. Product ideation is important not only for product owners and product managers but also for developers, designers, business analysts, and any other key decision maker throughout the digital product development process.

The ideation process has the power to help teams think thoroughly about the product they are building, helping identify key aspects that need to be prioritized, as well as analyze the viability and feasibility of specific functionalities. These sound like minor things, but they can make the difference between a successful product and a failure.

To make the most out of this process, it is important to have ideation sessions where teams can freely discuss their thoughts on the digital product they are building. This allows creative ideas to flow, and most importantly, it allows digital products to take shape.

There are various ideation methods; some may be better suited for your project depending on several factors. Ultimately, it all comes down to the product type and the resources available for the project, such as time and money.

In this post, we will discuss the ideation process, its three main stages, and four different ideation methods. By understanding these concepts better, you will be able to make the most out of your product ideation sessions.

The Product Ideation Process

Product ideation refers to the idea generation, selection, and implementation process in which product teams discuss different aspects of a product before they go into production. 

Characteristics of Product Ideation for Digital Products

Product ideation ultimately seeks to validate the viability of your product ideas. Ideally, you want to undergo ideation sessions that will allow your product manager to make better decisions before your project goes to production. This means that you will need to narrow down your ideas into specific items. To do this, you will need technical feedback from expert technologists and a work breakdown structure (WBS). 

When it comes to digital products, ideation does not necessarily have to occur before a product hits the market. Contrary to what many people think, product ideation can happen before a specific project begins, even if the product has been live for a long time. This way, creative ideas have an opportunity to arise before the product development process starts.

The main goal of ideation is to allow ideas to arise so that the best can be selected and taken into consideration by the product manager and owner. Therefore, it isn’t only about bringing fresh ideas to the table, but about selecting which of these need to be considered and implemented.

Benefits of Product Ideation

Successful product ideation can have many benefits. If done correctly, it can help product managers and product owners identify some of the key aspects of your digital product that need to be taken into consideration and prioritized

In practical terms, this translates into the opportunity to prioritize user feedback, assuming that gathering user research has been previously done. This is especially useful for existing products, as they can use the customer feedback workflow to solve problems like customer retention or improve the digital experience.

Additionally, product ideation can help identify some of the resources that will be needed in order to have a successful development process. Discussing ideas allows teams to understand the time and skills that will be needed to deliver the product they envision. This will help avoid long discussions on the right technologies needed, as your team will have a clearer understanding of specific requirements.

What Are the Three Stages of Ideation?

Ideation isn’t just about generating ideas. Throughout the process, your team will undergo different stages. This will allow them to refine the divergence exercises through which ideas are presented.

There are three main stages of product ideation:

  1. Generation
  2. Selection
  3. Implementation

Generation

This is the beginning of the ideation process. In this first stage, idea generation occurs. This means that teams get together to discuss different topics around the digital product they are working on. Put in different words, in this first stage, the idea is to allow teams to diverge and come up with random thoughts regarding the product.

There are different approaches to how this stage should be done. Some say that it is not the quality of the ideas but the quantity, while others focus on having fewer but better ideas. Whichever approach you choose, keep in mind that coming up with new ideas is what this first stage is all about.

An important source of ideas for existing products is user feedback. This is also useful for new products, but most likely you will need to do some user research before. For existing products, having feedback is very important as it helps identify aspects of the product that can be improved based on data instead of just gut feelings.

Selection

Once different ideas have been generated, it is important to select the best ones. That is why, contrary to the previous stage, this one is often referred to as a moment for convergence. 

Sometimes choosing the best ideas means choosing the most relevant. On many occasions, you will be faced with the challenge of having too many good ideas, but this is not what you want. Whatever the case is, it is important to narrow down the different ideas into a list that can help the development process, not make it cumbersome, even if it means discarding some.

Implementation

Once ideas have been filtered out, the next step is to implement the ones you’ve chosen. Implementing too many ideas might end up making the development process more difficult. The more ideas there are, the more complex the project becomes. 

Product ideation is only good as long as the exercise results in actionable items. Try to keep the implementation of ideas simple at all times, and you will be closer to succeeding. To achieve this, product owners and product managers have to translate the resulting ideas into concrete goals that can be easily achieved throughout the development of the product.

What Are the Four Methods of Ideation?

When it comes to the different ideation methods, there are various alternatives for your team to choose from. 

There are four popular ideation methods. These aren’t the only ones, but they’re definitely some of the easiest to use to obtain outstanding results. 

  1. Storyboarding
  2. Brainstorming
  3. Brainwriting
  4. Worst Idea

Storyboarding

This method is a great way to improve processes or design them from scratch. The goal is to create a visual story to present ideas and analyze the user journey. Participants are expected to imagine the potential outcomes of their ideas so that they can identify what works and what doesn’t. This also helps identify potential problems and steps that might have been omitted.

The result will be a series of storyboards that resemble a comic strip. Participants that don’t know how to draw can write texts on the storyboards.

Brainstorming

This is a collaborative exercise where participants share their own ideas and build over those of others. Ideally, you don’t want to restrain others from sharing their ideas, so avoid focusing on the quality of the ideas. 

To make the most out of a brainstorm session, it is recommended that the group consists of five to seven people. The more diverse your group, the more successful the exercise will probably be. Have a facilitator who can guide the exercise and keep things under control.

Brainwriting

This is a variation of the Brainstorming exercise. In this method, participants have five minutes to write down on a piece of paper a list of solutions to a specific problem. Once the time has passed, they will pass their piece of paper to the next person, and they will build upon others’ ideas. This allows everyone to participate.

This process works great for introverts or people who prefer not to share their own ideas out loud. The exercise ends when everyone has contributed to each piece of paper. As in the previous method, this one also has a facilitator.

Worst Idea

During ideation, almost everyone wants their ideas to be acknowledged as the best. However, in this exercise, the opposite becomes true. Participants will be required to share their worst idea on how to solve the problem. Other participants will then try to make those ideas even worse.

Discussing bad ideas is a great way for participants to see things that sometimes seem obvious but are rarely discussed. This is a great way to help everyone remove their fears of being judged.

Final Thoughts: The Product Ideation Process

There isn’t just a single method to perform product ideation. The important thing is that you and your team keep in mind that this is a powerful exercise that requires team dedication, and that it pays off even if they feel that they are fooling around.

Coming up with new ideas to solve a problem is a particular process that sometimes requires teams to think in a totally different way. Although ideating sounds like a game, there is much that needs to be done to guarantee its success.

The best you can do is find a digital product development partner who can lead the sessions. Ideally, they need to specialize in digital products. If they do this, they will probably be very good at the product ideation process.

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