5 steps to supercharge growth idea generation
Democratising the growth process
I’m a big advocate for the democratisation of growth idea generation. By that, I mean sourcing ideas from as wide a set of informed stakeholders as you can.
The informed part of that statement is important, but we’ll come back to that.
Cast a wider net, and you get more people, meaning more ideas.
You also get more diversity of background, leading to more diverse ideas.
More ideas, with more diversity, translate into a bigger palette to draw from when solving growth problems.
We’re trying to optimise for an idea-rich environment where diverse opinions and input are valued and encouraged.
We strive for idea abundance.
Get this right, and it will feel like your idea process is supercharged.
Thanks for reading The Product-Led Geek! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Here are the 5 steps I’ve found to be critical to make this work well.
1. Provide context
We want to ensure ideas are well directed - in other words, aligned with our strategic direction and the current set of opportunities we’re focused on.
The three most important pieces of context are:
The growth model
The user/team state model
The strategic opportunities you’re focused on
You don’t need to share the full in-depth growth model, but some articulation of it that describes how your product (and company) grows. What growth loops do you have? How do they connect in a macro system? What key metrics do we care about?
The user/team state model helps bring growth to life for everyone not living it day to day. It normalises the journey of all users/teams and establishes a common vocabulary.
Strategic opportunities should be framed in the context of the growth model. Where are the biggest constraints in the growth model? Why are those constraints? What opportunities exist for us to alleviate those constraints? What would be the impact of lifting a metric from x to y? What opportunities exist for us to layer on new growth loops?
Ultimately we want to provide this in an easily digestible form and invite ideas within the bounds of current strategic opportunities you’ll work on in upcoming cycles.
Note: Even after sharing, you’ll still get ideas that fall outside the current strategic context. When this happens, be grateful for and reward the contribution, but park the ideas to revisit at a future date when your context shifts and aligns with the idea.
You’ll also likely get duplicate ideas submitted. I’m OK with this - I’d prefer to see that signal than put things in place to try to hide it.
2. Help people to care
We want to motivate people to contribute their ideas, and people who feel a part of the growth culture will be more likely to do so.
Prioritising growth inclusivity helps with that.
Four things that I’ve seen work well are:
Don’t treat the growth process as a black box - open it up and let people see inside. Share every learning whether the experiment was a win or a ‘loss’.
Gamify the process - let people vote on what they think will be the outcome of every experiment. This is so simple and easy to do in Slack, but it can be profoundly effective; you greatly raise awareness of what experiments are planned and running, you increase familiarity with the experimentation process, and you build an appreciation of the reality that intuition is often proven wrong.
Develop and promote paved roads for other parts of R&D to adopt the growth platform - documentation, style guides, libraries, and tooling for data and experimentation.
Openly invite and welcome ideas - use every opportunity you see to encourage participation in the process. Be an open door with a huge welcome mat.
When people who don’t have growth as an official responsibility start caring about growth, everything becomes a lot easier, including involving them in ideation.
Note: Beware the absolution effect!
3. Make it easy
We often talk about friction in product UX and particularly around onboarding and activation. In that context, there’s good and bad friction. The same is true here, but ultimately we want to strive to make it as easy as possible for folks to submit ideas.
As growth culture matures within your organisation, a little bit of friction is useful; asking for ideas to be framed in your standard hypothesis form and asking people to choose the main area of impact for the idea (selecting from a list of key metrics in your growth model).
But I’d rather get ideas that we need to park than have folks discouraged from submitting their ideas because the process is too cumbersome.
Also, ideas come to people at different times. We can create specific environments to generate ideas proactively, and we can hook into the natural operating system of the company to capture ideas as they come to people during the course of their day-to-day work.
Four things have proven to work well here:
Run ideation workshops - these are a great way to drive focused effort on idea generation and provide an opportunity to reinforce the context upfront.
Provide a web form - bookmark it in key Slack channels, and link to it in a closing slide in every deck you create.
Create an idea mailbox - in a small co-located startup, this might be a physical box in an office, but unless you have an anti-email culture, creating firstname.lastname@example.org provides another low-friction way to submit.
Build a Slack workflow - this can be a simple form, or even just auto-submission of a thread when someone replies with a hashtag like #experimentidea
Note: On the other side of idea submission you also want to make it easy for growth teams (usually PM) to triage incoming ideas, so automate everything you can. It’s also helpful to promote the process by having triaged ideas piped into a #growthideas Slack channel.
4. Celebrate contribution
People outside of growth are generously taking time from their day to think about, articulate and send ideas to you. It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate that.
Here are a couple of things to try:
Pick a few forums (e.g. monthly growth updates, company all-hands or other similar forums) to call out top contributors. Recognition is great but consider regular or occasional rewards.
Run a leaderboard - this shouldn’t just be on raw submission volume though - qualifying include ideas should be those that are within the scope of the current strategic focus.
5. Close the loop
One of the worst things you can do is let the idea process be a black hole where ideas vanish, never to be seen again - it’s a surefire way to stop submissions dead.
When ideas are triaged, automate communication back to the submitter with a thank you note and a link to the idea in the database.
When ideas materialise as planned experiments, make sure you socialise that. When those experiments run, tag anyone who submitted the idea so they and others can follow along.
In Impact & Learnings reviews, call out the experiments submitted by people outside of growth.
It’s amazing how inspiring it can be to be in an environment where ideas are freely flowing. It’s little effort to stand up something like this, and I guarantea* it will help positively reinforce a growth culture across your company.
* mmmmmmmm, tea.
1 interesting listen:
Elena Verna with the Ultimate Guide to Product-Led Sales on Lenny’s Podcast
3 interesting reads: