Have you worked on cool ideas that ended up being kept in the shelf without it ever going out to the market, or it went to the market but failed? Although it is actually quite normal in this industry, it can be demoralizing if this happens repeatedly. You might then be thinking: what went wrong?
Here are some tips that we’ve discovered through our experiences:
1. Early and continuous focus on the users
It is not uncommon that the initial idea comes out when you are out having smoke, or having coffee break with colleagues. If your team thinks that the idea is worth investigating, plan for user research.
But don’t fall into the trap of asking users to answer whether it is a good idea or not. Rather, plan the research to reveal the underlying goals, behavior, needs, and frustrations related to your ideas, so that you can find the reasons “why” you need to pursue the idea further, and not just because a vague “they seem to love it” argument.
And don’t wait for too long to start this investigation. When your team has made so much investment in the idea, there is some kind of personal attachment to it that creates reluctance to scrap it away even though a later user research clearly shows that it is not something that the users really need.
2. Watch out for biases in what the users say
When people say they like it, it doesn’t always mean they will buy or use it. Don’t take what the users say in face value. People are not good in predicting their future behavior.
Sometimes, especially in Asia, they may say they like your idea because of the ingrained culture to please others.
Instead, look for cues on how they behave today – their existing pain points and frustrations, and whether they care enough to put in a lot of effort and find ways to make things work.
If your product concept really taps in on the real user needs, then you can be assured that it is a good concept, and not just a ‘nice-to-have’.
3. Get early involvement and engagement cross-functions
Your idea is great, there is apparent need for it, but you are finding a hard time getting the other functional teams to jump into the same boat that you have steered halfway to the sea.
Whenever possible, try to get early involvement and engagement with the other key functions, such as marketing, engineering, services, sales, etc., so they feel to be part of the team and have no hesitance to get their hands dirty.
Not only that, because you may only have a partial view of the world – you need each other’ expertise on the business strategy, product roadmap, technology trends, competitive landscape, etc., to have the big picture.
Conduct stakeholder interviews to share your plan and to understand their views and concerns. Do this even before you start your user research, as you may get useful insights that will potentially help you plan/refine your user research to validate the stakeholders’ presumptions and clarify differences in their opinions. By doing so, they will also feel a sense of ownership.