Product Idea Generation – The Foundation of Product Development

BY Chris Massey ON OCTOBER 24, 2016

Peter Duggan is Head of Product Management at Computershare Investor Services, where they have an intangible, service-based financial product, and as an organisation they are heavily focused on revenue goals. In this product idea generation walk-through from ProductTank NYC, Peter talks about how how to source, size, catalogue and prioritise new ideas from across the whole organisation.

Sourcing and Sizing Product Ideas

The key – in Peter’s opinion – is to make product idea generation an integrated part of daily work, not an occasional stand-alone internal campaign. In his case, he work with managers to connect with teams, joining stand-ups and making sure everyone understands the value of helping the company generate new product ideas and refinements. Given that these teams have the most contact with both sides of Computershare’s customer base, they’re in the best position to identify and suggest solutions for their customers’ real pain points.

But to make product idea generation an ongoing process, Peter ask managers to continue the push and support for new ideas, and makes sure to always acknowledge the contribution of a new potential product or feature (naturally, when people and teams feel that their input is respected, they are much more likely to continue engaging in the process). Of course, whether it is better to compensate people who submit great ideas (for example with some kind of bonus in relation to the value of the idea) or simply acknowledge contributions is up for debate.

When it comes to sizing ideas to determine their potential impact, it’s important to make sure that everyone in the company uses a simple template when submitting ideas to make sure that there is consistency, and then the question is essentially “who is best placed to make a quick assessment of the potential value of a new idea?”

Selecting & Progressing Ideas

When deciding on which ideas to develop, there are a few essential questions you need to answer:

  • How many ideas can your organisation realistically act on?
  • What is the impact across the business (e.g. how many times can you seriously involve the technology teams within a given timeframe?)
  • How does this idea fit into your tactical v.s. strategic goals? (i.e. make sure you’re doing the projects you need to, not just acting on opportunistic revenue grabs)

As you’re doing this, Peter points out that it is essential that you have some clear categorisation in place for all of your ideas so that you don’t duplicate projects or new features. This may not seem critical as you start soliciting ideas internally, but it obviously becomes more important as you start being able to generate more!

How To Start?

If you’re looking to either start or improve your own internal product idea generation process, there are a few key lessons to take away from Peter’s talk:

  • Idea generation is an integrated, systematic process – not a one-and-done campaign.
  • Work closely with team leaders, and feed back idea progress and development milestones in order to enable as much of the organisation as possible.
  • Identify your KPIs, as well as strategic and tactical plans, ahead of time. Make sure all new ideas are sized and categories according to those structures, and choose your prioritisations wisely.
Chris Massey


Chris Massey

With his background in technical editing, community building and product marketing, Chris' approach to product management is inherently centred around user narratives. He spent the first few years of his career working with the B2B developer products, prototyped an experimental technical publishing platform along the way, and now makes the Inception noise whenever he talks about his work. His time at Mind the Product is split between being an editor, community leader, enthusiastic baker, and Product Manager. You can find him at ProductTank London, or on twitter as @camassey.