February 23, 2015
Product & Dev
This is a continuation from a previous post: How I found my next app idea without looking, so you should probably start reading there if you haven’t already.
When I decided to build ProjectPulse, I was consulting full-time. I wasn’t looking for my next product idea to build, I was truly only trying to become a high-end product and web development consultant. But, it turns out, I was doing the exact right thing to think of my next idea.
So why was I on the right path by not looking for an idea? Experts know the ins-and-outs of an industry. For example, they know who the big names are, who the big companies are and what the niche blogs are. In addition, experts also know who the profiles (aka. personas) are of all the people in the industry, whether it’s the secretary’s role in an advertising firm, or the camera man’s role in a film crew. And finally, because experts know these personas, they also know what people in those personas are generally good at, what they aren’t generally good at, and the challenges from which people in those personas suffer.
In other words, experts know the biggest challenges in their industry and are the exact right people to fix those problems. And as experts do, I was fixing inefficiencies in my consulting workflow. I was looking for “consultant problems” to fix and obsessing over those problems. I was setting myself up to be the best person to build ProjectPulse.
So based on my experience with consulting and finding ProjectPulse, here are the 6 steps to finding the product you should be building without looking:
Immerse yourself in a job/career that will expose you to workflows, processes, and people. It doesn’t have to only be in the tech world if you want to build an app – but it needs to be one where there’s a community of people who will have the same interests and problems as you. So pick a job/career you’re passionate about that you will obsess over.
Start making your workflow in that job more efficient. Solve small problems. Become an expert in the job’s workflow. Know the ins-and-outs of the community that the job interacts with. Know who the big players are who also have that job. Know what the big literature and resources are – books, blogs, magazines, etc. Begin to improve your personal workflow one step at a time.
Stay open to the idea that some problems that need solving can’t be solved – at least not yet. These problems may be too big or too complicated for simple workflow optimizations, like having an email template or using a Google Doc. Make a list of these unfixable problems in your workflow.
Do research on your unfixable problems list. Take that list and begin to scrape the internet for other people sharing how they are trying to fix those problems. For example, do people build custom scripts to automate tweets? Do they use Zapier to connect services so their Linkedin list automatically generates their email newsletter list?
Some of the problems won’t have good nor simple solutions. Choose one of the problems from your list that isn’t truly solved yet. If the pain from the problem in the community is still high and people are still talking about it online, but the general consensus is that it’s just part of the cost of doing business, then this is might be the right problem for you to attack.
Describe the outcome of a solution to the problem. Write it in a Google Doc or grab a pen and paper. Don’t describe an app’s login process, or sliding dashboard widgets that will look cool. It can be a 1 or 2 liner. For ProjectPulse it’s, “A single place where all project stakeholders can go to see the status of the project, see past and future milestones, and know what to expect next in a project and when.” (How I got there from my original email issue is a different story – will circle back a different time). Just describe the outcome if there was “an app for that”.
You just made the pitch for your app – you’re ready to move on. How to decide what belongs in your MVP and what doesn’t? That’s for another day…
So, do you have the “I really want to build an app” itch?
I couldn’t recommend the approach I took enough to you. Redirect that “I’m dying to build an app” energy into being an expert in something and the product idea you’re praying for will come to you instead of you searching for a product idea in a metaphorical haystack.
If you’ve found this was the case for when you built your product, share your story below, I’d love to hear from you!