How to use Heuristic Ideation Technique to find Product Development idea?


Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way.

-Tom Freston

What is Heuristic Ideation Technique?

According to psychologists, ideas are simply a combination of two or more concepts formed in a creator mind. The Heuristic Ideation Technique uses the same concept of generating new product ideas by allowing you to explore different products’ features for making different combinations in order to search for a new product idea.

The technique uses a grid with rules of thumbs to quickly find the possibilities of new products.

Many big products have been invented using the HIT. Netflix’s streaming service is a big Heuristic Ideation Technique example. It is a combination of the internet and video content. Today Netflix serves almost 120 million users and has a market cap of $120 billion.

Started in 1997, Netflix knew that in order to thrive in the video business world, they would have to adopt a different approach. Netflix innovated and gave birth to the mail-order delivery system. They did value addition. Customers now could rent videos from the comfort of their homes.

Result: Netflix became a huge hit. Blockbuster, which was complacent, became bankrupt before it was bought by Dish network at a bankruptcy auction for about $320 million. Lack of innovation killed Blockbuster.

After that, Netflix didn’t settle for just the mail-order business model. The rise of YouTube and other video streaming sites helped Netflix recognize online video streaming as the next innovation frontier. Netflix made huge investments in video streaming and again invented a whole new product combining internet and cable channel.

In 2017, Netflix is the prime choice of 75% streaming service viewers in the US followed by YouTube with 53% viewers reach.

Similarly, Blockchain is another example which is the combination of the Internet, private key cryptography, and a protocol governing incentive. The blockchain is now attracting lots of big financial companies as it’s become a standard platform for many businesses.

Likewise, you can also use this technique to find ideas for your next innovation. Let’s first discuss the rule of thumb and then how to create a HIT matrix to generate product ideas.

Do you know there is a method called Morphological Analysis that helps solve wicked problems? The creator of the technique, Fritz Zwicky, used it to solve complex problems of astrophysics. Sounds interesting? You can learn how to use the technique here: How to use Morphological Analysis?

The Rule of Thumbs of HIT

Its name comes from its use of three ‘rules of thumb’ (or ‘heuristics’):

  • That new ideas are usually combinations of elements of existing ideas.
  • That the core of many new product ideas can often be captured by a two-element combination.
  • Those combinations of dissimilar items (chalk/cheese) trigger more ideas than combinations of similar items (chalk/limestone).

How can you use HIT for relevant product idea formation?

Now that you know the principle of the HIT, you just need a HIT Matrix to find the combinations of different product ideas.

In a HIT Matrix, the rows and the columns define the characteristics of two different existing products. Doing that, you will have a combination of each characteristic of both products.

Below I have given step by step process of making a HIT matrix.

Step 1 – Make a Grid

The example matrix consists of two products TV and smart speaker and their features. For TV you could list features like video, display, cable channels and remote and for smart speaker: music, personal assistant, different shapes, voice-control, and wireless charging.

How to make a grid using Heuristic Ideation Technique

Step 2 – Assign a number to each combination

You can either assign a name or a number to each combination like in the matrix below. Let me make it clear that these numbers are not scores. You are assigning a number or name which will act as a title of a combination. For example, in the below matrix 1 signifies a combo of Video and Music.

How to assign a number to the combinations using Heuristic Ideation TechniqueStep 3 – Remove the existing ideas

After numbering, the next step is to delete the combinations that already exist. In the matrix below, for example, the combo of music + video, music + display device and voice-activated displays are already in the market.

How to remove the existing ideas using Heuristic Ideation TechniqueStep 4 – Nix Illogical Combos and leave the doable one

Now there could be many combinations that don’t seem logical – Nix them as well. Now you will be left with combos that are novel as well as doable.

Like the combination number 7 of cable channels and personal assistant can be doable. Using AI in streaming service can increase the users’ engagement as an assistant can help in choosing more relevant programs depending on a user’s choice.

how to Nix Illogical Combos and leave the doable one using Heuristic Ideation Technique So, this is one example of the Heuristic Ideation Technique. Further, HIT is easy to implement and take a short time to give you a creative idea. Do you know you can use HIT in reverse to generate product ideas? The technique is called a BIT or Backward Ideation Technique. We are coming with another blog post explaining the concept. Sit tight.

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