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Vetting an Idea
Product Managers are full of ideas. The role seems to attract people who derive great pleasure out of not just fixing broken things, but optimizing the utilitarian.
Product Managers start sentences with "what if..." But all too often I see Product Managers implementing their ideas without running them by anyone else, or by just talking to a couple of colleagues. You don't need to conduct elaborate focus groups or statistically representative quantitative studies to vet an idea.
Here are some ideas for quick, qualitative feedback that I've either tried myself or heard about from colleagues, in order of increasing complexity:
- The in-house focus group: Reserve a conference room for a day, and set up a couple of mockups or prototypes. Invite everyone in the company to stop by the conference room sometime during the day, and observe the items. You can either be present to collect first impressions as people drop by, or ask them to fill out a written survey as they leave. Run around the company throughout the day and make sure everyone has a chance to give their feedback, either individually or in small groups.
- The coffee shop: Go to a coffee shop during peak hours and approach some of the people waiting in line. Be friendly, be quick, be courteous. This works best if you have something visual to show them, such as a logo, icon, or other design. You can't get a lot of someone's time this way, but you'll get their instantaneous, off the cuff feedback -- which is what you want. That's because a real customer usually has even less time to consider your idea than someone waiting impatiently at a coffee shop.
- The online survey: For more robust feedback, there are several online survey tools that allow you to create and send out a quick and professional-looking survey without much time investment. Most of them allow you to send them to a a small group at no cost. Write up your five most burning questions and blast them out. Even if you get only 10, 20, or 100 responses, you'll learn something.
- A full-scale Product Advisory Board
Drop me a note if there are others that work for you, and I'll add them to this list.