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How to Avoid Endless Idea Generation for Your Next Product Feature



The Issue: Endless Roadmap Meetings and Too Many Product Ideas

Brainstorming can feel like the wild wild west of product planning. The unpredictability of idea generation sessions can derail productivity and leave your team more at odds than before. Despite its unruly nature, product teams still use open-ended brainstorming to identify new product ideas.

In this post, we will teach you how to generate winning product ideas for new features using unmet customer needs in a Job-to-be-Done. We include an example of how to beat Google Maps and Apple Maps using this technique.

The Traditional Way: Generating Ideas with No Objective Criteria

One of the most popular methods to generate new feature ideas is brainstorming. To facilitate the generation of new ideas, there is often only one rule in brainstorming - there are no bad ideas. In other words, your team is not supposed to use any criteria to judge new ideas on the assumption that this will enhance creativity.

Brainstorming has proven to be ineffective at generating valuable product ideas. The reason brainstorming is inefficient is because it doesn’t include any quantitative criteria your team can use to quickly and efficiently judge new product ideas. Those criteria are the unmet customer needs in the job.

The JTBD Way: Clear Criteria Focused on Customer’s Struggle

Because Jobs-to-be-Done identifies unambiguous and quantifiable customer unmet needs in your customer’s JTBD, your team can use these unmet needs as the criteria to judge your product ideas. This eliminates any opinion-driven decisions and instead frames all ideas in the context of whether or not they will help your customer overcome the struggle to get their job done.

Let's look at our example of Apple and Google Maps. What feature idea will help us beat Apple Maps and Google Maps?

How to use JTBD to Uncover Unmet Needs

We know that customers aren’t waking up in the morning saying, “I want to use a navigation app today!” Of course, not. Instead, they’re ultimately asking for something to help them get to a destination on time. This is the Job-to-be-Done that consumers are “hiring” navigation apps to do. Consumers getting to a destination on time is the underlying market for navigation apps.

thrv jtbd job steps


Above are the 16 steps in the JTBD of getting to a destination on time. Job Steps are all the things a customer has to do to complete a job. Once we know the job steps, we identified the needs in each step to determine how customers struggle to get the job done. For example, customers need to determine the optimal sequence to make planned stops in a busy day.

Unmet needs in the job are the criteria
to use to generate and judge new product ideas.

To determine if this is a struggle, the thrv team asked consumers in a survey how difficult it is for them to determine the optimal sequence to make planned stops. We determined the customer's struggle by calculating a customer effort score. And we used customer effort scores to identify an underserved segment of customers who all struggle to get the job done in the same way.

This revealed that 86% of customers in the segment did not find it easy to determine the optimal sequence to make their planned stops. And for each customer need, we used the existing competitive solutions - in this case, Google Maps - to determine how quickly and accurately a customer can satisfy the need with the existing competitors.

In this example, satisfying this need takes five minutes or more and is only 20% accurate. With our quantitative data and analysis, we discovered that it takes too much effort for customers to satisfy this need with our competition - Apple Maps and Google Maps. These effort, speed and accuracy scores are your baseline for our idea generation. In other words, the unmet needs in the job are the criteria to use to generate and judge new product ideas.

How to Generate and Identify the Best Product Ideas - An Example Product Idea

Let's use this unmet need to generate and judge new product ideas. How can we help consumers determine the optimal sequence to make planned stops faster and more accurately?n To help them determine the optimal sequence in their busy day, one idea was to create an assistant service. A customer could call a remote assistant who would have access to their calendar, assess their stops, routes, and likely arrival times. And then make recommendations to re-order their stops. We can score this idea using the speed and accuracy of satisfying the unmet needs with our Assistant Service features. And we can assess the likely resulting customer effort.

Our second idea is called Sync & Optimize. This idea includes syncing with a user's calendar to determine the stops in their day. And to create an optimization algorithm that will factor in which stops can be moved, what the likely local traffic conditions will be at the time, and any atypical travel conditions like traffic or weather that may occur as the departure time approaches. The Sync & Optimize feature automatically and instantly optimizes the sequence of their planned stops.

Want to see how these two product ideas compare? Learn more in our online course.

The Benefit: Ditch the Debates and Align Your Team with Less Risk

Jobs-to-be-Done provides you with clear, objective criteria to generate and identify the best product ideas so you can end debates and build features your customers actually need and want. JTBD helps align your team with your customers and helps you get faster executive approval on your product roadmap.

Quick Review: To identify the best feature ideas, determine the JTBD and the steps, quantify the unmet needs in JTBD and segment customers, finally analyze and calculate the competitive speed & accuracy baseline for each of the unmet needs. Then you are ready to use the unmet needs to quickly generate and judge the best product feature ideas. 


Breena Fain

Posted by Breena Fain

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