Part Three.

For many information and media companies, the preferred way to develop new product ideas is to brainstorm them internally. Get your best minds in a room and talk about the industry and its needs. You can conduct these sessions in a highly structured way or make them completely freewheeling and open-ended. Good, solid ideas can result.

Brainstorming sessions are both convenient and efficient. And if your staff is deeply engaged in your market, bringing them together to discuss new product concepts can yield powerful, even electrifying results. That’s because your staff is essentially reporting back what it is hearing and seeing in the marketplace. Synthesizing their different inputs, finding themes and conceptualizing solutions to problems is a great group activity, and resulting new product ideas can be very strong indeed.

Contrast that with companies that aren’t close to their markets. Their group brainstorming sessions will yield bigger product concepts (arguably bigger opportunities, but also riskier and harder to execute), incomplete concepts (based on lack of detailed market knowledge), and little certainty about market appetite. Perhaps most significantly, these product concepts, because they tend to be bigger, somewhat amorphous and without clarity as to market need, rarely get developed further.

My bottom line view of new product brainstorming is that it works, but the output can’t ever be better than the input. If your staff knows your market, they can effectively act as customer proxies, and the results can be compelling. If your staff doesn’t, brainstorming results in pipe dreams.