Everyone is capable of an idea worth a million dollars/pounds/euros/yen(?). It will most assuredly never be their first idea, and might not be within their first 1000 ideas. But if you don’t track your ideas, you will never remember or be able to capitalize on them.
Your idea doesn’t have to be original, it doesn’t have to be mind-blowing. It just needs to be an idea you are passionate enough about to see it through to its end. Be that making millions or burying it in a shallow grave along New Jersey side of the Hudson.
Curating a List of Ideas
Write down every idea you have. It be as terrible as a soap that smells like garbage all the way to a machine that is able to turn lead into gold.
I will market either of these products if you make them. I would probably purchase them as well. Honestly, if you make it, let me know!
I have a Trello board with ideas. Each new idea gets a new card. Each card gets a description and a checklist for what I feel the minimally viable product (MVP) is.
Once every month or so if my work at my day job is particularly light, or we have a house-cleaning weekend, I will open my Trello board and pick a random couple of ideas, move them to the planning stage and add some more details to each of the cards.
I will estimate approximate timing for a feature, and spitball with my wife, friends or family members the various features it should have and who might be the target audience.
Validating Your Ideas
Now that you have your MVP features noted and the work planned. You should share your idea with as many people as you can and track their responses. I typically add these as comments on the card on Trello with a thumbs up or down emoji based on their sentiment.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” you are saying. I hear you loud and clear. Most people are very secretive about their $1M idea. It’s only natural to fear someone stealing your idea, but I am here to say, 99.999% of the time, they won’t. So if you want to play the made up odds, tell your idea to less than 100,000 people, and you should be fine.
Once you get the initial feedback from friends and family, try to find a few people in your target audience that share the problem you are attempting to solve. Be they smelly people and you have made some type of soap (hopefully not garbage soap) or restaurateurs and you have a SMS based survey platform.
You may be saying, “But Jeremy, what if I don’t have friends, family or know anyone in the industry?” Well then send your idea to me, and my team and I will take a look at it. It may take a little while for one of us to get to it, so please be patient.
If you would like a more in-depth response, don’t hesitate to contact me so we can put an agreement in place.
This second round of feedback will let you know how on-base you are with your potential customers’ needs. And if they recommend any changes.
Choosing an Idea
Since I am assuming this is all side work, and not your full time job, chose the product that has the best response and you are very passionate about. This is the only way to ensure you get at least an MVP out the door and potentially to customers.
This may not be easy. If you can cut your list of ideas down to just one, then kudos to you. I always have trouble picking my favorite idea for this week, and oftentimes get overwhelmed and don’t do anything.
This is a trick I learned to whittle down my list to only one or two of my best ideas.
- Pick up to 5 ideas you like the most. This is way easier than picking just one.
- Pick the “Easiest to Do”, the “Most Gratifying to Complete” and the “Most Positively Received”.
- Decision Time:
- Look at your schedule: if you have no time, chose the easiest.
- Look at your bank: if you are broke, chose the most well received.
- If neither of those are an issue, chose the most gratifying.
This sometimes takes a day or longer, but it is the easiest way I have found to figure out which project to start with.
Executing the Idea
You now have your idea, you know about how long in hours it will take to deliver at the very least an MVP, and you are ready to start working on it. I will be discussing this in software development terms, but this methodology can be used in anything from creating recipes to building houses, if there is more than 1 step to complete your product, this will work for you. If there is one step or less, please send me an email and a personal, self-addressed, stamped envelope, and I will send you all the cash I have!
Truthfully, this section really deserves a post all to itself. But I will give a high-level, technology-agnostic view of my product development methodology. I may use software terms, but instead of Repository, read Bowl and instead of Database read Cabinet! They mean the same thing… Maybe.
At this point, you should create a new Trello board for your product. Take your checklist from the idea card and create a new card for each of those items. Also create cards for all feature suggestions and changes from your feedback and attach the full comment from the respondent.
My product board is usually set up as a Kanban board with the following lists:
- In Progress
Every feature starts off as a card on the New list. As I create the card I do the following.
- Add to the description why you want the feature
“Richard S. requested because …”
- Create a comment for your proposed approach to the solution
“Add the user entity to the data repository”
- Break the approach into check list of individual tasks
- Define User Entity Object
- Create User Table
- Add Create Method
- Add Read Method
- Add Update Method
- Add Delete Method
- Add REST endpoint for the User Repository
The card will move to the Active list if I know I will be working on it in the next release cycle (the current sprint in agile terminology).
I will usually pick 4-5 cards out of the queue to make active. This way my sprint is short and my releases are fast. Work on them when I have time, but never leaving a card incomplete once started, as it is hard to pick back up after a week or longer of time off.
Once that task is completed, move the card to the Completed list. Then once each item is completed, test the outcome thoroughly. Then publish!
Once the product is live, test once more. If it comes back as successful, pat yourself on the back and send out an email to everyone who is on your list from the validation stage and anyone you may have picked up elsewhere.