Three Common Pain Points of Product Ideation

Product ideation pain points
Product ideation pain points

Picture this: your firm has a product that you feel like you know inside and out. You work with the product every day – you may have helped build it, or maybe you were responsible for bringing the product to market. You know that the product is not perfect, but you feel like you know where the problems exist and can address them. Nevertheless, despite your best efforts the product isn’t reaching its full commercial potential. Why?

Giant Machines works closely with clients to answer this question. After years of experience partnering with firms to untangle their product problems and devise actionable solutions, GM has found several recurring pain points during the product ideation process, which we call the “3 Ps” – Proximity, Preconception, and Picture.  

The 3 Ps

  1. Proximity: The problem solvers are too close to the problem.
    Teams can have an emotional response to product issues given their history with the product, which can inhibit a clear understanding of the problem(s) that needs solving. It can be difficult to zoom out, which is compounded by institutional habits and ways of working that may impede progress around framing the problem at the outset or taking action during the solution implementation phase.

“It’s a lot of work for a client to investigate their own processes and needs on top of their actual full-time job,” says GM Senior Design Strategist Gayatri Mohan. “And sometimes they’re too embedded in the organization to be able to step away and point out the right questions. When we come in as a third party, it puts us in a position to surface the right questions, and map out their processes and pains with an impartial eye.”

  1. Preconception: Assumptions about users are not always correct. 

While clients may possess accurate information and insights into their users in some respects, they are also likely to hold unarticulated assumptions that can color their understanding of user needs and pain points. It is not a given that user needs and pain points are fully understood. Sometimes you’re so embedded in a problem that you don’t realize that you’re working from assumptions. As a result, client’s don’t always obtain or utilize the right data to assess pain points, generate insights, and identify opportunities for action. We keep everything human-centered, and that’s the same case here.

“I think back to the quote I heard from Steve Vranakis of Google about users: ‘Know the user. Know the magic. Connect the two,’” says GM’s Senior Design Strategist Annhien Nguyen. “It’s very foundational to product development to understand what the user actually needs.”

  1. Picture: There is no visual frame of reference for product ideation and development. Clients are aware that problems exist with their product, but they haven’t been able to visualize the problem, often due to a lack of bandwidth.

“Maybe one person individually knows that there is a set of problems to solve, but it’s never been visualized or realized as a problem that is linked to another set of problems in a different part of an organization,” Mohan says. “We help make those connections visually through user journeys and personas, which helps decision-makers identify cross-functional priorities, and ultimately, that type of holistic view is what lights up opportunities.”

Without this holistic view of the user journey, their pain points, and the broader context in which their experience unfolds, clients lack visibility into how problems may cascade, and even how narrowly focused solutions might further exacerbate them.

How Giant Machines helps 

Giant Machines brings an outside lens to help overcome the 3 Ps, with a focus on fully  understanding the problems to create the space for solutions. 

First, we take stock of the status quo: What is the problem and how are people solving or working around it today? 

We then model user personas and map their journeys. Human-centered design is integral to the success of any product—without people at the core, a product is doomed to failure. This exercise allows GM to map pain points from end to end, and identify where and how product and user issues intersect and compound. 

Next, we prioritize pain points and the biggest opportunities for impact with a close eye on business goals. We also identify the most critical evaluation criteria so that we can quickly re-assess priorities as the product development process advances.

Lastly, we collaborate with the client to develop experiments for testing product solutions and their impact, with full-scale solution implementation based on performance against jointly created success metrics. 

While the 3 Ps can pose serious challenges to product ideation, they are surmountable by finding the space to fully understand the problem(s) and visualize alternative solutions, with a deep commitment to placing humans at the core.

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