Outcome-driven Ideation

The 1 Line Description

A super effective ideation methodology, focused on key user outcomes.

When to use it

Whenever brainstorming new features / business models / product platforms.

Key Ideas

*This article presents a short summary/extracts of a longer article, by Tony Ulwick (Author of "Jobs To Be Done - Theory to Practice") 

Outcome-Driven Ideation: Brainstorming With The End In Mind

Rather than generating hundreds of questionable ideas, devise solutions that explicitly address your customer’s most underserved needs.


"Historically, companies employ ideation methods that disappoint along two fronts. First, managers are often paralyzed by the number of ideas that are generated, as they lack the ability to adequately evaluate and prioritize them. ... Second, only 17% of new product ideas that are pursued ever succeed in the marketplace, making ideation a highly-inefficient, broken business processes."


Outcome-Driven Ideation Overview

The process was designed from the ground up to be outcome-driven — focused on the outcomes customers and stakeholders are trying to achieve. ...

Below are the top 7 unique ideation session characteristics:

  1. The session is focused on devising solutions that address specific, unmet customer needs. Rather than asking the ideation team to generate general ideas to help grow the business or to improve a product or service, the team is asked to focus on devising solutions that address a specific set of unmet customer needs.
  2. Your team knows that the targeted customer needs are underserved BEFORE the ideation session begins. Using ODI-based qualitative and quantitative research methods, you determine which customer needs (often 100+) are unmet, then quantify the degree to which each is underserved in advance of the ideation session. ... With this heightened focus, your team is more confident that the solutions it generates will be highly valued by customers.
  3. The customer need statements, written in the form of desired outcomes, act as the perfect instruction for concept creation. A desired outcome statement is a specially constructed need statement that is devoid of solutions, stable over time, measurable, controllable, structured for reliable prioritization in a quantitative customer survey, and tied to the underlying “job” the customer is trying to get done. A desired outcome statement purposefully communicates what the customer is trying to accomplish and guides the creation of the solution. The statements are also designed for easy translation into product requirements, making them highly actionable and valuable to development teams that operate in a waterfall or agile environment. The use of desired outcome statements is unique to the Outcome-Driven Innovation process.
  4. A desired outcome statement also acts as a solid baseline for on-the-spot concept testing. A desired outcome statement includes a metric that is used as a baseline to help you evaluate the potential of a proposed solution during the ideation session. Consequently, the ideation team evaluates each proposed solution against the metric to assess the degree to which it will satisfy the outcome. ... This streamlines the concept evaluation and testing process.
  5. The goal of a session is NOT to generate lots of ideas. Instead, the goal is to build team consensus around one solution that will effectively address each specific underserved need targeted in the ideation session. Rather than generating numerous ideas and hoping some are valuable to customers, your team will devise a solution for each targeted outcome that is certain to create significant customer value.
  6. Your team does not mix feature-level ideation with product platform or business model ideation. The reason is simple: generating a mix of ideas that cannot be considered and evaluated against each other is a recipe for confusion and failure. Consequently, if the goal of an ideation session is to generate ideas for a new feature set on an existing platform, two sequential steps will follow: first, everyone is instructed as to what platform is assumed. Next, they are given directions on how to generate feature ideas that can be implemented on that platform. Sessions for product platform and business model ideation are conducted separately and in a specified order (platform, business model, then feature).
  7. The process incorporates a custom set of creativity triggers. We have translated the creativity principles of several popular methods, along with all the TRIZ principles, into 3 sets of actionable creativity triggers. They are specifically designed to help product teams devise (i) new product and service platforms, (ii) new business models, and (iii) new product and service features. These triggers are based on proven principles that have been previously implemented to generate patentable ideas. The set of triggers is unique to the Outcome-Driven Ideation process.

Outcome-Driven Ideation In Practice

Although it may be counterintuitive, giving the ideation process a structure enhances creativity because it channels and focuses creative energy exactly where it needs to be. Instead of playing gimmicky games designed to generate hundreds of questionable ideas, this approach results in the creation of breakthrough ideas that your organization can pursue with confidence.

We facilitate 3 types of ideation sessions, each with a specific purpose in mind.

  1. A new product platform. This approach is used when conceptualizing altogether new product offerings and is focused at the system and sub-system level.
  2. A new business model. This includes ways to generate revenue, reduce costs and optimize profits.
  3. A feature set for a defined product platform. This is the preferred approach when seeking ways to enhance a product offering on a specified platform.

Each type of session follows a precise structure. For example, when facilitating an ideation session that is designed to conceptualize a new feature set for a defined product platform, we follow the process depicted below:

Devising a Feature Set for a Defined Platform

  • Agree on the product platform that will be assumed as part of the solution.
  • Introduce the team to the outcome statement that is the focal point for ideation — a single, quantified underserved customer desired outcome. Again, only one outcome statement per ideation block.
  • Discuss the root cause of customer dissatisfaction — and why current solutions fail to address the desired outcome.
  • Assess whether or not solutions offered by competitors or solutions used in other industries successfully address the desired outcome.
  • Assess whether or not solutions in your product pipeline or in R&D successfully address the desired outcome.
  • Determine what creativity triggers, if any, to use as part of the process. See 81 Creativity Triggers To Energize Your Ideation Process.
  • Instruct the team to construct 3 or 4 alternative concepts and to evaluate them on their ability to increase the level of customer satisfaction.
  • Work as a team to devise the best possible solution — generally defined as the one that will satisfy the outcome to the greatest degree for the least product cost, development effort and technical risk.
  • Document the feature in detail as a team, ensuring it clearly states what to implement to satisfy the unmet need. Include sketches, graphics, images or diagrams as needed. This becomes the input into the product requirements document or epic, etc.

When the ideation session is focused on conceptualizing a new product platform or a new business model, a slightly different process is followed. Briefly, when the goal is to devise a new product platform, the ideation effort is focused on devising a solution that will enable the execution of the entire job on a single platform. In this case, ideation is often conducted at the job step level, not at an outcome level.

When the goal is to devise a new business model, the team must have already agreed on the platform level solution. From there the focus is on defining how revenue will be generated and costs will be contained to ensure the solution could be delivered and scaled profitably.