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A simple guide on how to search for new product ideas
Whether you are creating a new product, developing an existing one or coming up with a new creative for your brand, you will need to look for new ideas. Below is a simple framework and some tools to help you with that.
At the start of the process, you are likely to have some hypotheses about the needs of your target audience (TA) and possible ways of satisfying them. Those hypotheses likely appear in your mind based on your previous experience. However, even if you have an obvious idea in mind, don’t rush. Take a step back and define the scope of the need for that idea. Try to describe the problem a person might need solving as widely as possible first of all. You may find a whole system of needs branching out from that scope. So to avoid missing something important, start your idea search with a widely defined scope (territory). Put yourself in the position of not knowing anything at the start of the process.
Identify the territory: Example
You have an idea for a recipe search app. You want this app to be based on the products a user has in their fridge. So you broaden the search for ideas by looking at everything that comes up within the 'cooking at home' territory based on your in house products i.e. ideas around FOOD that people are COOKING at HOME.

Other examples:
 — A pizzeria chain with robot operated kitchens > it is food outside the home.
 — Online school for internet discussions > social network debates.
 — Alpacas rodeo > active holidays.
 — Beekeeping investment > investment management.
What to do.
  1. Write down your idea.
  2. Think about and jot down related items / concepts / thoughts which define the limits for your area of interest.
  3. Define your territory.
TOP TIP: Use a sticky note to write down this reminder: 'Remember to look at the big picture' at the start of your search and stick it somewhere obvious as a constant reminder.
Target audience
The target audience for the product is all of the potential users / consumers who might need the product even theoretically and who can use the product in reality. Just as with defining the territory, try to cast a wider net initially (For more info on the reasons why check this out).

Describe your TA in terms of:
 — Demographics (gender, age).
 — Geography (your target market).
 — What is their key need (around the defined territory).
Going back to our example, you are making a recipe app which finds recipes for you based on what you have in the fridge. Your market is the UK. Therefore, your TA description could look like this:
 — Male Female 20−55 years old;
 — UK, national representative sample;
 — Cooked at home within the last month.
How to do it. Define your product TA. Write it down on a sticky note and place it somewhere visible.
Clarifying the need
At this stage it is important to strip yourself of assumptions about the world and to go outside of your home/office (maybe even literally). Look at how life is in reality. Be accepting of what you observe rather than trying to filter what you see through the prism of your own perception. Study the way people solve problems and satisfy their needs inside the territory you have defined. Why do they solve their problems in this way? Which difficulties occur along the way?
At this stage you:
 — Check your hypotheses.
 — Find out something new that hasn’t crossed your mind before.
 — Learn the language real people use for the objects and events within that territory.

As a result at this stage:
 — You gain a better understanding of your TA.
 — You define certain ideas and hypotheses (about the product or it’s advertising).
Ideas and hypotheses are not the actual products of research. They are born in your mind, giving you food for thought, a nudge, additional stimuli for the neurons in your brain. Research is there to stimulate your innovation process. Look, listen, ask questions, observe and find things to link and extrapolate.
Getting started with research
How to do it. The researcher’s job is to learn about people from people: to see them, hear them and feel them instead of making assumptions. Depending on the situation you can use qualitative research methods such as observation and interviews or a combination of both.
Defining an idea
Make sense of the information you have collected and try to describe your idea using simple consumer language. Your description should include: the need, the problem and a particular way this need can be satisfied or the problem solved; any additional benefits of using this solution. You can use a Value Proposition Canvas. Describe each idea separately if there are a few of them. To polish your ideas before they go to consumers, you can use our Concept Testing Template.
Defining an Idea: Example
Need: To be a good product manager I must consider the needs of consumers.

Problem: But I don’t know much about user research.

Solution: Consumer research online crash course.

How does it solve your problem:
It gives you a clear framework to solve particular business problems. It is a practical guide.

Additional benefits: Networking with other product managers taking this course.

(RTB): Professor’s personality and credentials, success of previous students (testimonials).
Going through this process helps you to find and define your initial ideas. However, you still don’t have any information about their potential of the ideas at this point. That’s the next stage.
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