Where the Best Ideas Come From

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

It probably won't be your next hackathon. Or the smartest person in the room.

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

Consider the source

Not all business ideas are created equal. And where you find yours can massively impact your odds of success. So where do the most bankable ideas come from? A new survey by rapid consumer feedback platform Alpha sheds valuable light on the question.

Alpha surveyed over 500 product leaders from large organizations and startups for its 2020 Product Management Insights Report. Positioned as they are at the intersection of business strategy, customer experience and change, nobody is better qualified than product leaders to know.

Here’s what they had to say:

  • Direct customer feedback is the best source of new product and feature ideas.

  • Teams can’t get enough of it. Four out of five respondents said they don’t spend enough time talking to customers and seven of ten expressed frustration at how infrequently they run experiments.

  • If handed an extra $250,000 of budget, half of product leaders said they would spend it on user research and experimentation. Team training came in a distant second at 21%.

  • Today’s pace of change is driving product teams to take on more of the skills they need to operate with maximum speed and self-sufficiency. More on this below.

Customers are the best source of ideas

Direct customer feedback was cited by nearly two-thirds of respondents as the best source of product and feature ideas, followed closely by team brainstorming. Market research, while still important, came in a distant third and the age-old practice of copying competitors fourth.

Surprisingly, ideas from leadership ranked near the bottom at 13%. There wasn’t much value found in crowdsourcing either, which has become more popular in recent years. And Sorry McKinsey, but ideas from external consultants came in last. Suggesting product teams are trusting their own homework instead.

Source: Alpha's 2020 Product Management Insights Report

Product and research are parting ways

But it’s not what it sounds like. Research is more important than ever to product teams, but there’s a widening gap between the cadence of corporate research departments and vendors, and the accelerating pace of change in today’s marketplace.

“Product development moves fast, but customer preferences move faster.” - Alpha’s 2020 Product Management Insights Report

When Alpha asked what is the most significant blocker to product teams collaborating with research departments and vendors, the top two answers were actionability and speed. As a result, today’s product teams are going to the customer research well less often and digging their own wells instead. For two reasons mainly:

  1. The perception that they can’t afford to wait.

  2. The reality that they don’t have to anymore. Modern research tools and techniques have radically sped up and democratized research possibilities for teams on the front lines.

Expect to see more of this as the pace of disruption continues and ever-greater demands are placed on product teams to respond.

Source: Alpha's 2020 Product Management Insights Report

A new era of self-reliance

In today’s world, corporate innovators and product teams can no longer afford to wait months or even weeks to plug in the inputs of research departments, business stakeholders and outside consultants. Instead, they’re taking matters into their own hands and doing it all themselves: Market research, idea generation, design, testing and more.

Where are you finding new ideas?

Read the full report here: https://insights.alphahq.com/2020

Subscribe to our bi-monthly email newsletter for the latest insights from our work.