We all have ideas. Indeed, it’s easy to spot ideas everywhere and end up like the dog from Up — constantly distracted by the next shiny thing.
But how do you turn a fleeting idea into an actual product? In short — how do you start executing?
I think this is the trickiest part of the entire process, especially if you aren’t driven by external factors (the need to pay rent, or deliver at work). Many a side project has been a spark of excitement for a few days and then languished unfinished in a github repository or notebook somewhere. Almost everyone I speak to can empathise with the problem of getting over this “hump”.
Why is it so hard? Because it’s the stage of the idea-to-reality process that starts to involve real work, which is enough to fizzle out the initial romance of the idea and make your eyes (and mind) wander off to more exciting dreams than the tedium of trying to figure out how to make it happen.
But this stage can actually be the most exciting part altogether.
There is nothing more energising than finding resonance with your idea. Finding people who actually want to use what you’re dreaming up. Finding hunger, and demand, and people whose lives can be changed by you — yes, you! Having the scary vagueness of “getting from A to Z” resolve into a plan and something that starts to feel “real”, something you can talk about as more than just an idea, more than just “wouldn’t it be cool if”.
From my first startup when I was in high school to the numerous side projects over the years, freelancing, the fully-fledged startup rollercoaster, and (nearly) three crazy years as a PM at Google, I’ve finally figured out how to get over this hump and keep it interesting. See, I’m all about stories and narratives — thanks, improv — and I’m even more about people, and reverse-engineering to figure out what people might actually use vs. what you think they want, or they think they want.
Enter the product story. This is actually two things combined: user stories (though, I agree with Jack on the word ‘user’; I prefer to find a term that’s applicable to the app, for example, chefs, parents, players..) and a product roadmap, answers to a set of questions which will help you navigate the crazy world from concept to concrete.
The product story isn’t an end goal, it’s a process of answering questions and talking to people — a process that helps you slowly crystallise the spark of an idea into something actually buildable, but more than that, a vision that you can run with. The idea you begin with might not be the same at the end of this process, but that’s okay (in fact, it’s encouraged). Learning from real people helps you figure out where your idea is strong and where you might be off the mark.
We start with three core questions:
- Who are you aiming your product at? (If you have a two-sided product, or more, think of all the potential audiences.)
- What problem(s) are you trying to solve?
- What does the simplest solution look like?
Easy, right? Well.. not quite as easy as all that. Fortunately, help is at hand.
I’m teaching a Skillshare hybrid class called “Making It Buildable“, starting Nov 5th, which is a mix of live video and prepared resources backed up by a community of students and self-organised in-person meetups. It’s a ridiculously low $10 to sign up, but the first 10 people to sign up with the code TRENDPNR get 33% off. Bargainous! Look forward to seeing you there.
I’ll be posting some more resources on the product story as the class progresses, but there will be content that’s only available to registered students, so please hop on over to Skillshare and sign up if you’re at all interested in the process of product design, ideation, and turning inspiration into execution.
If you’re really hard up or want to sign up in a group, drop me a line on Twitter or via email and I’ll hook you up. I thoroughly recommend getting together with a local group and signing up together — this process is incredibly amplified by group feedback.