The story goes that in 2008 – Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp (now founders of Uber) were stepping out of the LeWeb conference in Paris. They were both unable to find a cab at the late hour and walked their way back to the hotel. An idea sparked through – could they create a button that someone could simply tap to have a cab at their door step. They were both inspired by their personal experience. They then went on to build it out further, respond with speed to market challenges from student car share platform like Zimride (now Lyft), and ended up with being a disruptive force in the marketplace. Most situations start this way. If you step back from the successes of these large dreams there are a few underlying tenets of how they go about conducting product development. These can typically be classified into 5Is.
- Inspire: The first step to any product development is to inspire oneself to solving a challenge. This inspiration could come from an inconvenience you face, a passion to better something, or simply try new things. The inspiration should help define the purpose and outcomes of any given product. It also includes learning about the potential customers, their point of views, scenarios, and validating various assumptions being included in the product development process.
- Impersonate: A very important next step that follows is the ability to create customer personas that clearly articulate their point of view/challenges. This process allows focus i.e. discern who the consumers are/aren’t, how to view the world from a consumers’ vantage i.e. how they would use the product/service, and how your product/service will solve their problem. The design thinking paradigm of this is called user empathy. It is all about focusing and relating to your customers.
- Ideate: Once the impersonation process starts, it should unleash a sense of obsessiveness to understand and come up with various ideas of potential solutions. This could include anything from a wireframe mockup, to a process map, to a skeleton of a product/service. If possible, the ideation should be validated with a consumer group and evolved as appropriate. The outcome should be a minimally viable product that one could implement. Tools such as Business Model canvas, MVPs, learning metrics, and other approaches taught in Eric Ries’ Lean Start Up can help the cause tremendously.
- Implementation: Implementation is the process of getting that minimally viable product out the door. It includes defining the learning metrics, building that ecosystem, product/service, and conducting a limited tests to better understand the impact and changes needed. If the product/service already exists then concepts like Split A/B (wherein certain groups of your customer-base receive a variation or newer capability) are used to better understand the consumers. All learning from this phase should be gathered, analyzed, and used for iterative product development.
- Iterate: It is about getting comfortable in never having a complete product. As ideas evolve it is about continuing to implement, learn, and iterate. The pace of change in today’s marketplace doesn’t lend itself to any type of inertia or potential energy. It requires an obsessive passion to continually iterate and evolve the product (or) walk away from it.
This type of approach allows for an immersive consumer-centric product/service development. Of course there is a catch – one may end up simply responding to what consumers’ say/ask based on their current frame of reference instead of innovating. It is a balance.
What approaches do you use?