The Product Ideation Framework

Authors Note: All frameworks have moved to a new home at Strategy Umwelt. Please join me at this new platform for a revised list of mental models, strategy frameworks and principles including a revised version of the Product Ideation Framework.

I discovered the Product Ideation Framework through Aaron Dignan, CEO of Undercurrent, via a talk given for 99u. The purpose is to help individuals, startups or organisations find new product opportunities in the market around the intersections of friction, passion and technology.

The days of mass producing things you want, buying a heap of ad space and selling an idealized version of the product irrespective of reality are over. Companies that are embracing more of a Digital Operating System by underlying their product offering with software are disrupting entire entrenched industries, so we need adapt to this thinking.

The Product Ideation Framework becomes a powerful tool to streamline our ideation process.

The Product Ideation Framework

Market Weakness

This is all about finding a friction point. What are people frustrated about?

An example is the friction point targeted by Uber - not being able to find a cab or hire car easily, not being able to pick the kind of car you want, and having to negotiate a price or deal with outdated and buggy payment machines. Friction existed that they capitalised on.

Internal Strengths

What are you / your team passionate about? What do you / your team fundamentally believe in? What skills do you / your team have right now? What Makers do you have access to, and what can you bring to the table by combining them? Make a mental list of your strengths - as an example an Advertising agency might have access to a range of creatives, planners, designers and developers with specific programming skill-sets.

Adjacent Possibility

What has become recently possible in the world of technology? What has just recently become available that we can play and experiment with? For example, Apple is about to release a phone with Near Field Communication linked to a fingerprint sensor - what innovations could this lead to?

Pulling it All Together

So we have found the technology, found the friction and found the passion. Now, what product insights can come out of this?

Between Market Weakness and the Adjacent Possibility (no. 2 on the diagram), is there something we could be building? What friction could be addressed with something that has just emerged in the market?

Between Internal Strength and Adjacent Possibility (no. 3 on the diagram), what are the opportunities or possibilities? What has just currently emerged that aligns with the skill-sets of you or your team?

Between Market Weakness and Internal Strength (no. 1 on the diagram), is there currently something that is weak or frustrating in the market that you also have passion for? What could you see yourself investing time and effort in to change, and will this have a bigger impact on the world?

As you work through this, you will start to gravitate towards the centre and create a set of hypotheses (no. 4, the sweet spot in the diagram). This should allow you to develop a list of Minimal Viable Products (MVPs) to target for testing so you can generate a bunch of validated data and hopefully the start of a new and successful product.

Our final goal is to start to apply a Digital Operating System on top of our new product ideas to really give it legs and allow it to get smarter and take shape over time. Check out some of the thinking behind this at the Undercurrent site.

A revised version of this post is available at Strategy Umwelt.