How Do Product Managers Capture Ideas?
Ideas are the fuel for great products. […] The more ideas you capture the more likely you are to get the perfect new product or feature. Many times ideas will seem silly or absolutely unobtainable; write them down anyway. Over time circumstances change, technology improves and opportunities appear that you do not expect.
The conversation only lightly touched on the mechanics of capturing ideas, and knowingly avoided the sometimes difficult and awkward process of sorting ideas, so I thought we’d talk about the former today and the latter next time.
Where Do Ideas Come From?
Everywhere! Trusted customers. Not-so-trusted customers. Sales. Customer service. Your own head. The competition.
There’s potential to trip over good ideas all day long. Sometimes from unexpected people in the most unexpected of places.
How Do You Capture Those Ideas?
Some people do it the old fashioned way with a notebook and pen. Some prefer online services like EverNote or Google Docs.
My old system involved Post-It Notes. Actually, my old system was Post-It Notes. It worked for awhile, but wasn’t very efficient (“Where did that note go?!?!”). Eventually I started to look and feel like Leonard from Memento, and knew something needed to change.
My Personal Approach
I’ve developed two different methods for how I capture ideas these days, one for work and one for home.
At work, I take a single notebook with me everywhere to jot things down. Product ideas, regardless of source or my personal snap judgment, I transfer over to our idea Wiki and sort them into categories (new game ideas, billing, networking, etc.).
In real life, I have notebooks everywhere–one next to my bed, one in my backpack, one in my car–so I can jot down ideas as they strike me. I’ll then transfer the more pressing ideas to Stickies on my iMac, and pick them off one at a time. (Apparently, at a smaller scale, my Memento-style approach still works.)
I’m an amateur screenwriter in my spare time, and I’ve started using Voice Memo in my iPhone to specifically capture ideas for scenes I’m writing or in the process of re-writing.
Why Two Different Approaches?
I didn’t develop two approaches purposefully; they evolved naturally. I think some of it has to do with scale–there are simply more ideas for work than for some of the personal matters I work on.
Speed and turnaround time are also a factor: In real life, the ideas I have can usually get knocked out pretty quickly, much faster than the time it takes for ideas at work to move through the validation process and (if merited) into production. As a result, my desktop stickies are much more manageable.
A big factor, maybe the biggest factor, is the ability to share ideas. What I like best about the Wiki at work is that it’s viewable to everyone on the team and everyone in the company. There’s a level of transparency there that encourages people to keep contributing ideas and encourages new ideas, riffing off some of the ideas we’ve already captured.
How About You?
What’s your process like for capturing ideas? Do you leave voicemail messages for yourself at work? Tattoo your body with product ideas you need to remember? What works, what doesn’t?