Finding the Ideation and Product Development Balance

Ideas are great, but what about the followup?

The value of an idea is limited by being able to execute it. At some point, you have to stop ideating and start putting those ideas into production. But for many businesses, finding the line between ideation and product development can be tricky. An idea sometimes needs more time to fully bake, and that may not be clear until you’ve tried it, or you might only start product development and get beaten to the punch. So, how do you strike that balance?

What Are Your Resources?

Anybody can come up with an idea like “We should launch our own satellite!” And that might even make sense for your business, for any number of reasons. But getting something into space isn’t a cheap proposition. This is an extreme example, but we’re using it to emphasize one of the bigger concerns about ideas vs. product development. You need to be able to commit enough resources to execute those ideas.

A good corporate inspiration is Nintendo. Nintendo works on the principle of “lateral thinking with withered technology.” Nintendo rarely develops cutting-edge technology, but it’s a masterful user of well-known technologies and combining them in new ways. That gives them a good understanding of resources and lets them make a profit in an industry driven by loss leaders.

Can You Execute Pieces?

Some aspects of an idea are useful on their own. A good example of this is bitcoin. Even if you’ve got absolutely no interest in bitcoin, you’ve likely heard quite a bit about blockchain. And there’s a reason: blockchain technology is essentially a useful way to create a digital ledger with hundreds or even millions of copies. If you’ve got a document you always need to know the custody of, or if you’re a car dealership that wants to keep track of their vehicles (and ensure nobody’s trying to sell you a totaled vehicle) or any of a host of other functions, blockchain is fascinating. So are there aspects of your idea you can implement now, that stand on their own, and allow you to introduce your product in stages? Are there aspects that are more ready and could stand to be put on the market to test how “road-ready” they are?

Turn it up to 11!

Is There A Rush?

Not every industry is in a massive rush to innovate, and there’s an important distinction between getting to market first and getting the right product to market. For example, the iPhone was undeniably innovative and brilliant, but it took years for the smartphone to penetrate certain markets. It simply wasn’t able to meet the needs of clients such as businesses that needed cryptographically secure communications, for example. Even just basic enterprise sales, a sector of IT Apple spent years trying to break into, was a struggle that the company took nearly a decade to get to any sort of viable solution.

Especially with niche markets, or markets with a low tolerance for products that haven’t been thoroughly tested, it may be worth remembering that first to market isn’t necessarily a guarantee of a first-place finish.

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