I’ve been talking to people around the organization this week and last about their great ideas that could become possible new products for the New Products team here at The Times.
First, let me say that this is so much fun and such useful stuff for me and for the organization, I could be happy continuing to doing this on a part time basis forever.
But what I wanted to talk about is how useful, and how essential, it is to examine lots of very different ideas simultaneously like this whenever you’re thinking about possible new products.
One idea by itself will always seem like a great idea. How could it not? Compared to nothing, it is something – and something always looks better than nothing. It’s only when you put an idea next to multiple other ideas and compare them along different axes – potential market size, risk factors, costs, etc – that the ideas and the opportunities they represent really start to come into focus. Each opportunity becomes like a 3-dimensional model whereas before it was 2-d at best.
When I was in grad school at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, inventing and launching new ideas for each class I took, most of my classmates would seize on the first idea they came up with and turn that into their class project. I always thought that was crazy. I liked to come up with five ideas, totally different, one after another, put them side by side and see which one stood out from the rest. Or maybe blend a few together to get a new idea. And invite all my my friends and family to weigh in on the process as well. That’s still the method that I’m convinced works best for new product ideation.
When you think about it, the decision that will have the single biggest impact on the eventual success of your product is the the very first decision you make – the decision about which opportunity or idea to focus on in the first place . That’s the point of maximum leverage, maximum flex. It’s all increasingly incremental from there.
Which is all to say: this is a fascinating and worthwhile process, and I think it’s going to lead to good things.
(Also: if you have an idea, and we haven’t met, reach out to me – I want to hear from you.)