Opportunity Recognition Process
How do you come up with an idea?
All good opportunities begin with the customer. The entire idea generation process is iterative—at each step you learn, adjust, and refine. You start to understand the criteria that customers use in their purchase decisions and the pain points in building and delivering your product/service.
The first step is to gather stimuli—IDEO does it through customer anthropology. Simply, the team goes out and observes the customer in action in their natural environment and identifies their pain points. The team’s mission is to observe, to ask questions, and to record information. It is crucial to ask open-ended, not leading questions, and act as Dian Fossey observing mountain gorillas in Africa—just observe.
The next phase is to multiply stimuli. Team members report back on their findings and then start brainstorming on the concept and how to improve upon the solution. Techniques vary: the comedy improv process, and brain-writing can facilitate idea generation. The key is to keep adding to a previous idea by saying “Yes, and…” Then instead of publicly discussing the ideas, everyone votes on the three to five they like best.
Once you’ve narrowed the field to the idea and features you think have the most potential, the next step is to create customer concepts. This is a mock-up of what the product will look like at a high level; it doesn’t need to be functional, it is just a tool to solidify what everybody is visualizing and to help the team think through how the product should be modified.