The goal of the ideation process isn’t lots of ideas
Ideation is all about coming up with the big idea. The key challenge, however, is knowing what constitutes a big idea. When looking at idea generation through a jobs-to-be-done lens, we see that a big idea is one that helps a large number of customers (job executors) get a job done significantly better at a price they are willing to pay. The goal of the ideation process, then, should not be lots of ideas. Instead, the goal should be to construct the single, best solution to satisfy the unmet customer needs of the target customers and segments, enabling them to get the job done faster, more conveniently, and more effectively than ever before.
Myths that mislead the ideation process
There is one belief that permeates academic literature and has influenced nearly all gated product development processes: it is the notion that the innovation process begins with an idea. This is the myth that misleads. An idea is the output of the innovation process, not the starting point. Making ideation and idea management the starting point of the innovation process, although common, turns innovation into a guessing game. It is the most inefficient approach to innovation and the root cause of low innovation success rates. Why? Because it is nearly impossible to have a big idea before knowing what customer, job-to-be-done, segment, unmet needs, and price the idea has to address. They are the inputs needed to execute successful ideation techniques. The chances that any random idea will satisfactorily address all these prerequisites are miniscule.
Why all the ideas?
Many companies equate innovation management with idea management. They have ideation sessions that result in lots of ideas that must be catalogued, filtered, assessed, and acted upon. The thinking goes something like this: “The more ideas we have, the greater our chances are that one of them will be a big idea. Our goal, then, is to fail fast; that is, to filter out all the bad ideas as quickly as possible so the big ideas will surface.”
Companies that use the ideas-first model are trying to figure out which of the hundreds of ideas they have generated significantly address their customers’ unmet needs in attractive markets. But in nearly all companies, managers don’t even agree on what a customer need is, let alone all the unmet needs in the markets the ideas are addressing. So how can they effectively determine which ideas to pursue? They can’t. And this is the problem.
As a result, companies pursue, develop, and refine ideas they find intuitively appealing, and along the way they try to figure out if those ideas address unmet needs in attractive markets. In the end, they find that most ideas do not. These ideation techniques waste time, money, and resources.
You don’t brainstorm innovations; you construct them
Our ideation process works because it is built around knowing all the customers’ needs, and which are unmet, in advance of the ideation process. We have discovered that customers consider between 50 and 150 metrics when assessing how well a product or service enables them to successfully execute any job. These metrics (or desired outcomes) are the customer’s needs and the power behind our innovation process, Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI).
Prior to ideation, we use quantitative research methods to capture and prioritize all the customers’ needs. Those same methods also point out what customer, job-to-be-done, segment, and price the idea has to address. No other ideation process makes this possible. With the right information in hand, we can construct a big idea, because success comes from knowing, not guessing. We invite you to schedule a Jobs-To-Be-Done Ideation Day with the pioneers of jobs-to-be-done theory. Learn more about our innovation consulting services.