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6 Tips to help Product Managers innovate

May 1st, 2023   |   Emily Moulder

Product Managers are always looking for new ways to delight customers.... seems simple:

  1. Have a great/new idea

  2. Turn that idea into a product (or service)

  3. Launch; market gets excited

  4. Sell!

  5. Profit (and repeat)

If only things were this easy. The innovation process can be arduous, requires hard work and doesn't guarantee success (although you will gather valuable learnings along the way).

6 techniques for the product development journey

These techniques can be implemented easily and quickly to help generate ideas and source the best source the best ones. They promote faster development, decison making and subsequent launch through techniques and frameworks. Whilst also helping to avoid wasting time on ideas/products that are destined to fail.

For more techniques, and background information on each technique, we recommend Marty Cagan's Inspired: How to create tech products customers love.

1. The Design Sprint Technique

Created by three partners at Google Ventures, their concept is a four to five-day process used to solve tough problems and has been utilised by hundreds of companies.

It breaks down the innovation process into a formula that can be replicated by any business. When you are done, you will have moved from idea to prototype to decision in just a few days. See here for details on Design Sprints.

2. The Decision Sprint Technique

Brew Digital have refined the above process into a Decision Sprint that takes just two hours. It helps teams make critical decisions before or during the product development process.

It combines some of the exercises of the Design Sprint and helps teams get on the same page, decide the right problem to tackle, and start moving towards a solution, all in two hours. 

It is a powerful exercise because its structured form and the use of an experienced facilitator help ensure tangible results, instead of the typical brainstorming sessions where ideas are discussed but no actions are taken.

3. Opportunity Assessment Technique

A simple product management technique is the Opportunity Assessment. This process asks you to answer four questions:

1. What business objective is this work intended to address? (Objective)
2. How will you know if you succeed? (Key Results)
3. What problem will this solve for customers? (Customer Problem)
4. What type of customers are we focusing on? (Target Market)

4. Customer Letter Technique

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes with the Customer Letter technique. Write a mock-up letter as if it was sent from a very happy customer to the CEO of your organisation, explaining why they are so satisfied with the product. This helps you think about the benefits of your product to the end client.

5. Customer Discovery Programme

Recruit six reference customers in your target market. Find customers who really express the problem you're trying to solve and are willing to dedicate time to assist with the development e.g. giving feedback on the prototype. By the end of the programme, these clients will benefit from having a solution that solves their pressing problem, and you will have built something at least six customers find valuable. An important point is that they must have agreed beforehand to buy the product and serve as a reference if the final product fixes their pain point.

6. Customer interviews

Hopefully, you are already doing these, but if not, start right away! A Customer Interview-focused approach is not time-sensitive, but really you should have around three hours allocated every week to test the assumptions that you make as you develop the product and that your solution is aligned with what users need. 

Write a script using open-ended questions and keep the conversation natural and informal. You will be amazed by how much you can learn from these conversations. By speaking with customers early and often, your customers will know you exist and feel connected to the product from day one. After all, they helped you build it! Some of them might go on to become your first paying customers and a reference for your future prospective clients.

There’s no one perfect technique that will work for all teams, so maybe try a few to see which works best along the way. Get in touch and we can help.

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