Idea Collection

This initial phase lays the foundation for Product Discovery. It’s essential that we stay open-minded because ideas can come from everywhere.

Idea Collection Phase
Idea Collection Phase

Key Objectives / Key Questions

Collect ideas and insights potentially worth exploring, wherever they might come from.

To be a bit more specific, it often helps to listen to different audiences:

Which Problems are our Users Struggling with?

What do users complain about? Where does a business process break? Which jobs do they give up completing? Where do we see a lot of support tickets or hiccups in usage data?

What Complicates the Life of Sales or Customer Success?

What do Consultants complain about? Where could implementation for customers be simpler, easier, or faster? How could we ensure quicker time to value?

What do Salespeople complain about? What are typical road blockers in the B2B sales process? Which checklist requirements do we miss? When do we lose against the competition? How can we prove our value proposition in a better way?

What does Engineering Complain about?

Where do we have tech debt? Where do we see a lot of bug reports? Where do we have outdated technology, maintenance, or performance issues?

Key Activities

  • Carry out customer interviews to spot areas of improvement
  • Manage a customer community and listen to what they are discussing or even complaining about
  • Organize events with customers, such as user summits, and talk to them in a friendly and open atmosphere
  • Job shadowing to observe your customers in their daily environment and notice issues they might not even be aware of
  • Run internal jour fixes with Sales and Presales to update them about the product roadmap but also to identify obstacles in their jobs
  • Meet with Customer Success regularly to learn what customers complain about the most
  • Actively listen to Engineering teams when they mention areas of improvement or even tech debt during team meetings, such as planning events or retrospectives

Exit Criteria

  • Product Managers have at least a rough understanding of the ideas, problems, pains, and gains mentioned so that they can start Problem Discovery.
  • Product Managers have clarified that ideas wouldn’t contradict the Product Strategy.
  • Those who had submitted the ideas are informed that their proposals are under consideration.

Involved Team Members

  • Product Managers are in the lead and accountable. They have to make time to actively listen to the “ocean of ideas”.
  • UX Research often brings in valuable ideas which surfaced during customer interviews.
  • All internal teams can contribute — see the Key Questions section above.
  • All customers can contribute — so ensure an open-door policy.

Tools and Techniques

  • Customer community portal to provide a space where customers can exchange ideas and express needs.
  • Idea portal as a dedicated channel to file, review, and manage all ideas in a transparent manner.
  • Quantitative usage data to see where users struggle or even drop off.
  • Job shadowing to observe target users in their daily work environment and understand firsthand what they are struggling with.

Things to Watch out for

  • Be open: Ideas can come from everywhere, at any time, in any situation, most often when you least expect them.
  • Remain in problem space: Focus on truly understanding the problem before going to solution mode much later.
  • Be transparent: Let people know what happened to their ideas, and why.
  • Be candid: Tell people when you reject their ideas, “we will consider” might generate the impression that you will soon be addressing a topic when you won’t.
  • Act fast: At this stage, speed matters. For rough ideas, it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of time. Even if you have mistakenly discarded an idea, good ideas will come back.


A customer is particularly involved in the improvement of a B2B SaaS software, not by invitation, but by means of frequent complaints. Requests and ideas fly in at a speed and frequency much higher than other customers. To both Customer Success and Consulting, this customer seems too “micromanaging” to handle. Thus, they often take those requests to the Product Manager for help. And the Product Manager would offer explanations of either a won’t-do or priority. But the customers didn’t cease their “feature chase”. Little by little, it was clear to the Product Manager that proactively reaching out to the customer and asking for feedback might be a more suitable approach in this case.

Thus, a series of customer interviews were carried out, where two factual quick fixes were actually identified right on the spot, and several long-term discovery opportunities were noted down. It was not only a satisfying exchange for the customer but also good learning for the Product Manager – after all, the customer was extremely eager to explain their problems to a great extent.

Now, the Product Manager is able to spontaneously email the customers for feedback on any part of the product and expect a thorough answer. Moreover, when hearing about the development of a new feature, the customer proposed to volunteer to be the Beta testing partner and offer any kind of real-life information that may help the product team develop.

It’s an excellent situation to be in when the Product Manager has a trusting connection with a customer who uses the product extensively. Even better, the customer turned from complaining to helping the Product Manager understand issues.