You’re on an island and surrounded by ideas proposed by smart people. There simply is not enough budget and mind space to keep all of the ideas. How do you survive? Employ a strategy or vote an idea off the island. While strategy is often thought of as a process of gathering quality information, more importantly, it is a decision not to do something, where to focus and what to prioritize.
Set the expectation that strategy and brand alignment are a priority before execution.
All too often, someone who has a vote when it comes to a product lives on the periphery. You and your team are sailing along, gathering all the good ideas and understanding the constraints. Just when you feel that you have a handle on what the users need, your director rejoins the conversation and brings additional constraints. “We don’t have that budget after all.” “Our funding is contingent upon strict accessibility requirements.” Expectation setting is not easy and nearly impossible to make amongst large groups. Your first strategy exercise to get you closer to the best ideas will likely be to select a smaller group of people to define the strategy and eliminate people who are not critical to its definition. While these team members may not necessarily be a part of the initial definition process, they will likely play a role in how it evolves.
What is known regarding your brand is secondary to how users will immediately extract value.
I find that product owners on my team want to vote up or build consensus so that they can plan far in advance how the budget will be spent to build features and features for their users. “What will the engineers do after this search initiative?” Understand what content the majority of your users are most likely to consume and what will get them to make note of or return your content. The strategic decision to apply focus to the aspect of your project that gets the most views will help you narrow your goals and ideas that will feed your product. Ask yourself this question: “Does this idea relate to our most consumed content?” The idea should be able to be transformed meet the need or it has to leave the island.
Focus on the goal that solves a problem differently compared to your competitors rather than creating more of the same.
If you have developed an idea that allows a user to view, share, vote or buy something, focus on that goal versus the goal to create an out of the box feature. We have so much inspiration to draw from all around us as our world becomes inundated with design trends that may actually be ripe for reuse. While you may eventually build that forum or community perhaps it is best to understand what your users value so that you can initiate a topic or group from the idea you developed first. It’s natural to want to employ a tactic used by our competitors in a sort of arms race but it is not always the right focus.
Strategy focuses more purely on getting to the right goals versus process. Process often defines the method we will use to reach, measure and evolve our goals, but it does not define the value we place on ideas. A good strategic plan developed by strategy and process oriented minds maintains which ideas to keep on the island and chart the course your team can follow.