Executive Brainstorming

Brainstorm to Create a Stronger Product Strategy

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In my recent post I described the process of creating a draft product strategy. Now it’s time to solicit ideas from your organization’s thought leaders and take your vision forward.

Gather Your Organization’s Thought Leaders

Think about whom in your organization is a forward-focused, big picture thinker. These should be people with strong knowledge of the business who interact frequently with customers. These thought leaders may hold a range of roles in your company. You may find them in marketing, among the founders, in professional services, sales leadership or research. When you’ve identified the sharpest minds in your company, schedule a two-three hour meeting. A few days before the meeting, distribute your vision draft and any support materials so thought leaders can come to the meeting prepared. Be sure your product vision is marked “DRAFT” – it is a work in progress.

The Product Manager Shares the Strategy Draft

You’ll use your product vision draft as a springboard for discussion in your meeting. At the beginning, set out the meeting objectives and answer any questions. Begin the discussion by focusing on the current situation. This is the easiest to see and starting here will give your discussion momentum.

Brainstorm Ideas

The goal of your brainstorming session is to generate ideas and spark creative thinking. As your thought leaders react to your vision draft, capture their ideas as bullets in the margin of your diagram. Certain more vocal participants may begin to dominate your conversation. It is your job as discussion leader to draw in the more reluctant participants. Make sure everyone has a chance to contribute.

Once the current situation has been captured, move on to the end point of your diagram. Where does the group see the product being in three-five years? This portion of your meeting can lead to some interesting and creative discussions. If one of your participants seems to have a real grasp of one of the points, make a note of it. You’ll want to follow up later.

Once you’ve written all the ideas down on your diagram edges, have the group prioritize them. Make sure the ones selected support your vision’s overall theme. Typically, your group will put forth more ideas than you can incorporate.

Filling in the Product Strategy’s Middle Section

The center circle – the midpoint of your vision diagram is decidedly more difficult to envision than either end point. It requires your group to link the current situation to the desired future in plausible, attainable ways. Frequently, ideas that were included in the future or current situation will migrate to the midpoint.

When the process is complete, participants may want copies of the diagram. Let the group know that you need to refine the work and may need to circle back with some members. Also let them know you’ll need to contact a few key clients to get their input before the vision is finalized.

Your next step is to finalize your draft and make sure you fully understand all concepts. When complete, you can enjoy the satisfaction of having developed a three to five year product vision. You will be far more knowledgeable about your product, competitors, and the market than you’ve ever been.

Final Cautionary Note

Be sure you keep your product strategy out of the public domain. If your competitors would happen to see this document, they may be able to beat you to some of your goals. Warn each thought leader to keep the product strategy under wraps. It is not for public consumption.

In my next post, I’ll discuss the importance of testing the product strategy on thought-leading customers and prospects.

 

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