Selecting Your Product Idea

27.09.2017 |

Episode #5 of the course Product development 101 by Jeff Brunski


So, you have populated your solution space with a ton of product concepts. You have many good ideas for adding value to your consumer and solving their need.

Now…how do you pick the best idea?

You’ll learn about a few tools for this scary and difficult phase of the development process today.


Convergent Thinking

Convergent thinking is the opposite of divergent thinking. If divergent thinking is about “creating choices,” convergent thinking is about “making choices.” When we talk about deciding on your product concept, we’re talking about using convergent thinking skills.

Side note: Selecting a good concept is a pretty important step in the development process. As you can imagine, once you have selected an idea for a product and begun to refine it, it becomes very time consuming and expensive to start over with a different idea. You don’t have to have your product concept fully defined at this point—in fact, that would be a big mistake—but you obviously want to pick a good idea. You want to get this step right. Below are a few methods that will help you with this task.

Grouping. Put similar ideas together into a family of solutions. Rather than comparing one idea to another, see if you can compare one family to another. This higher-level way of looking at the problem and solution might give you an overarching feeling for the best approach to your product. It might not help you pick the final singular idea, but it can help you make progress in eliminating “families” of ideas.

Butterfly Method. One method used by companies like IDEO is something called the butterfly method. In short, all solution concepts are put on a wall. Each member of the team is then given a number of votes—a stack of sticky notes. Team members then vote by putting the sticky notes on their favorite concept. The wall ends up looking like it’s covered in butterflies (hence the name), and the ideas that most resonate with your team become apparent as votes are cast.

The Matrix, Rate, and Rank. Using a rating system or comparison matrix probably seems super intimidating; when I’ve seen this topic covered in books, the diagrams look really complicated and it’s often presented in an overly technical way. But this process is something we do every day.

I’m going to use a simple analogy to demonstrate this method.

Imagine you are considering two options for lunch: tacos or pizza. (Forget for a moment that thinking about this decision for more than a few seconds is a huge waste of time because the answer is super obvious: tacos.) How would you make your decision?

• You would compare the options in a limited number of dimensions: nutritional value, taste, cost, serving size, etc.

• You would rate each option in each dimension.

• You would consider how heavily to weigh each dimension (Is taste more important than nutritional value? Yes, it is.).

• You’d do some mental math and see which option ranks highest and then go eat some delicious tacos.

Comparing product ideas is no different. The basic process is:

1. Establish the dimensions for comparison (e.g. how well each concept might address the consumer’s need, how well each could deliver value, how different they are to existing products already in the market, how much each might cost to produce, how well each might perform in a variety of ways, etc.).

2. Rate each concept option in each dimension.

3. Weigh each dimension (give it a percentage).

4. Do the math.

As you can imagine, there is no single method that works for everyone. The key is to spend time in this phase; don’t pass over it and casually make the decision without enough thought. After all, you’re about to spend a lot of time making and refining this product.

Speaking of which, let’s get to those next steps. Tomorrow’s lesson: writing the product spec.


Recommended book

Product Design and Development by Karl T. Ulrich and Steven D. Eppinger


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