Methods of Product Ideation

There are four kinds of product ideation that can be thought of along two axis, organic vs inorganic and bottom-up vs top-down.

bottom-up top-down
inorganic idea extraction idea safaris
organic scratch your own itch live in the future, build what’s missing

Idea extraction: observing and talking to other people to find problems.

Scratch your own itch: finding problems you personally have.

Idea safaris: starting with an industry, observe what happens at popular watering holes and look for patterns.

Live in the future: become the kind of person that has more interesting product ideas, get to the edge of a field that is going to be a big wave. Look for smart people and hard problems (they tend to be clustered) and join in.

Read the essay The Grand Unified Theory of Product Ideation.

  • Minimum Viable Testing

    Rather than spend months building an MVP, which might not work, you can test a startup idea incrementally. Minimum viable testing is when you create a real-life test of the riskiest assumptions you are making about an idea. If it fails a test, you can disqualify an idea or iterate on it. It can be done faster than building an MVP and give more confidence that your idea will work so you can skip the MVP and move directly to company building.

  • Willingness to Pay Should Be at the Core of Product Design

    The core thesis of Monetizing Innovation is that product failure is rooted in the failure to put the customer’s willingness to pay at the core of product design. Designing around the price—which measures value and priority—helps guide product design based on the customer. Companies often build the product and then do marketing and pricing, but that amounts to a leap of faith at best and a painful disconnect that leads to failure at worst.

  • Wealth-Creation Mechanisms Are Simple

    The list of ways wealth is created is remarkably short.

  • Thinking Better Thoughts

    I remember when I first started working at Stripe I felt like the dumbest person in the room. I was amazed at how smart everyone seemed and the writing…gosh, the writing! If I wanted to be like that too, something needed to change.

  • A Hundred Things to Organize

    Whenever there are a hundred things or more in a process someone is doing, there is a recognition that “there must be a better way”. A hundred items are the upper bound of what one can reasonably track manually. A hundred items indicate that the process is more complicated than one thought.