Monday, December 26, 2011

Developing New Product Ideas

Every year, people all over thw world submit a little over 2 Million patent applications. Most of these patent applications are from companies who are in the business of developing new products and it is essential to the success and survial of these businesses.

These patent applications are just a small tip of the iceberg of ideas. Hardly 1% of the product ideas get converted to patents. So the question is: How to people get ideas?

As a product manager, innovator, engineer and a creative individual, I can share some insights. Essentially there are two distinct paths for getting new ideas.

1. Necessity
2. Imagination


Necessity is the mother of all inventions. Only when there is a need, people will think of developing something new, else people are happy using the same old stuff.

The best part is that almost everyone in this planet has a necessity for a something that does not exist. So with 7 Billion people in this planet, one can comeup with atleast 7 Billion ideas!

Necessity or identifying people needs is the easiest way to come up with new product ideas. Just go around and ask people, and you will get ideas. Even a 5 year old child can talk about their needs for a unique type of a toy.

Most product companies (i.e, product managers) go around asking their current customers - what they need in the future. Customers being the main users of the product always have ideas to improve/develop the current products. Collecting a bunch of such ideas and distilling them will lead into new product development.

New products that are developed by identifying people needs are often incremental in functionality and design. These products are also low risk products - as there is a greater chance that customers/users will accept it. Thus in the overall market place, products that are developed to meet specific customer needs have a high value.


Imagination is one capability that sets us 'Humans' apart from other animals in the world. We are blessed with the power of imagination. The ability to think of something new - which does not exist is a powerful means to develop new products.

So in a planet of 7 Billion people, every person has imagination can potentially develop new product ideas - i.e., at least 7 Billion ideas!! Yes it can be 7 Billion ideas per day.

People's imagination is often triggered by what they see, feel & experience. Everyone is capable of imagination and can imagine new products.

What triggers human imagination?

There are many things that can trigger human imagination: Personal Experience, Viewing things differently, Playing and exploring, Subversion/Adaptation - taking a regular product and converting it for an unintended use, self-reflection and knowledge of world around us.

There is no specific way that can trigger imagination, imagination just happens only when we put our thoughts into it.

Making an Idea into a product

But to really develop a product, it takes more than imagination - persistence. A designer or artist or inventor can take a raw idea and developing a product out of it. This ability to persist is a only differentiator from people who can just think up of ideas and those who develop products.

Only when persistence is combined with right skills and knowledge can lead to new products.

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