Applauding the Idea Killers

We all struggle from time to time to generate creative ideas. They’re precious and often hard to come by. So why on earth would I suggest celebrating the death of an idea? Because ideas – especially product ideas – cost money, time and resources.

To stay competitive, businesses are under a lot of pressure for new features, product enhancements and completely new product concepts. In the typical phase-gate model of product management, the first stage is usually ideation. This is where ideas are created. At this point, the goal is more ideas.

More, More, More

Product teams gather around conference tables in brainstorming sessions designed to generate as many ideas as possible. They may invest in consultants to help them create ideas, sponsoring workshops to develop a white-board full of ideas. Sometimes, Sales, Marketing and Customer Service are invited to participate, representing the “voice of the customer” or market needs.

In many of these sessions, participants are told that no idea is a bad idea. The thinking tends to be that the more off-the-wall the idea, the better. Radical ideas breed creativity, and no ideas are killed.

But here’s what happens after the excitement of the brainstorming meet ends: Some of those ideas have legs. They creep or jump onto the product roadmap. And there they stay, stubbornly refusing to leave. So what if Sales tells you customers won’t pay for the feature. Don’t worry if Marketing says you can’t price that solution competitively. That idea is someone’s baby, and the Baby Mama or Baby Daddy is not going to just give up.

Ideas, even the ugly ones, tend to stick.

Be Ruthless

When it comes to product management, it pays to weed out ideas quickly. Because the longer they stay on your roadmap, the more they cost.

It’s good to be ruthless in the early stages of product development. As ideas enter the product lifecycle, more ideas should be killed than saved.

If you look at the decay rate on your product roadmap, the number of ideas in the funnel should fall off a cliff right away, gradually tapering off. By the time you get to full development or testing, the death of an idea should be a rare occasion. If your attrition curve is more gradually sloped, you’re probably not killing as many ideas as you should.

Don’t fight with idea killers, kicking and screaming as they take away your precious concept. Don’t move mountains trying to find any way to save a dying idea. Celebrate those who have the guts to tell you it’s time to let go.

Unsung Heroes

The idea killers – whether they are engineers, marketers, operations managers or executives – are heroes. They’re the ones who save your company buckets of money by putting bad ideas out of their misery quickly. They’re also the ones who will tell you when a perfectly lovely idea isn’t quite ready for prime time.

Celebrate and reward the idea killers in your organization, because they make everyone more efficient. Imagine the expense of selling and supporting a product that never should have made it to market. Or the cost of developing a product too early, when technology can’t deliver on the promise of an innovative concept.

Work hard to weed out questionable ideas as quickly as possible. Then commit your organization whole-heartedly to delivering on the concepts that are really worthy of your efforts and investment.

Image by santamaria


  1. Creating ideas is not a big deal, but creating fresh, new, and attractive ideas surely is,and i totally agree with the post, Thankz

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