product innovation blog

160 ways to generate ideas for new products


Before we get to the list, let me get on my soapbox. A lot of attention has been paid to crowdsourced innovation, innovation contests and innovation tournaments. The idea is to use the power of crowds to generate lots of ideas. The best ideas will rise to the top and become your next blockbuster product.

What we’ve observed, however, is that a lot of effort has gone into trying to solicit new product ideas from outside the company, while thoughtful analysis and development of product strategy has languished. In this situation the ideas with the highest estimated sales, the lowest risk or the loudest sponsor tend to win.

What is really needed is a product strategy – a road map that shows how products will evolve over time to meet market needs and ensure the long-term viability of the company. Accordingly, the first section of the list has strategy-related ideas and the last section has methods that rely on directly asking external parties for new product ideas. The rest rely on collecting data, and understanding customers, competitors, technology and the environment. Who understands your products better than your own employees? Let them do their job, but provide them with the strategy know-how to do so.

Do you have any suggestions to add to the list? Please send your ideas. We will update and share the updated list in a future post.

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1. Strategic product planning
2. Adjacent markets – what other customer types or industries have similar problems to solve
3. Adjacent products – what other problems can you solve for your current customers
4. Disruption – where are you vulnerable to new types of competitors
5. Strategic white space
6. Change the basis of competition
7. Stake out a new market position
8. Fill gaps in product line
9. Offer different levels of product performance
10. Offer different price points
11. Enter new businesses

Collect and analyze data

Environmental Scan – how do ongoing trends or changes in trends create opportunities or obstacles for your customers or products; consider differences by customer type, geography, etc.
12. Demographic
13. Economic
14. Government
15. Environment
16. Society
17. Technology (pay special attention to disruptive technologies)

Industry Analysis

18. SWOT
19. Industry evolution analysis
20. Industry roadmaps

Field interviews with

21. Channel partners
22. Trade associations
23. Investment banks, industry analysts
24. Consultants
25. Auditors
26. Advocacy groups
27. State or regional development authorities
28. Standard setting organizations
29. Unions
30. Local organizations (e.g. chamber of commerce)
31. International orgs (OECD, UN)
32. Watchdog groups
33. Regulatory agencies
34. Product reviewers

Customer Analysis

35. Segmentation analysis
36. Attitude assessment
37. Conjoint Analysis
38. Self-state importance surveys
39. Latent/emerging needs of potential customers
40. Latent/emerging needs of current customers
41. Articulated needs of potential customers
42. Articulated needs of existing customers
43. Track trends for future needs of potential customers
44. Track trends for future needs of existing customers
45. Price sensitivity
46. Buying habits
47. Key customer drivers
48. Voice of the Customer studies
49. Customer interviews
50. Customer visits
51. Focus Groups
52. Ethnography
53. Lead User studies
54. Analyze the value chain – take on more activities for your customers, or transfer some activities to customers
55. Understand the buyer experience cycle (purchase, delivery, use, supplements, maintenance, disposal)
56. Study why non-customers do not buy your product, but do buy an alternative
57. Study why customers who have the need choose not to buy any product
58. Customer satisfaction studies

Competitive Assessment

59. Pricing and features analysis
60. Substitute products
61. Perceptual Maps
62. White Space Identification
63. Patent mining

Internal Analysis

64. What capabilities, resources, assets can the company leverage in new ways
65. What capabilities can the company easily acquire

Analyze data from public and semi-public sources

66. Government databases (e.g. Census, Department of Labor)
67. Consumer complaints (e.g. BBB, NHTSA)
68. International agency databases (e.g. UN)
69. Freedom of information act to get data on competitors or customers
70. Filings of competitors with regulatory boards

Get Creative – ideation techniques

71. Lateral Thinking
72. Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT)
73. Value Engineering
74. TRIZ
75. Concept tests
76. Rapid prototyping
77. Design Thinking
78. Brainstorming
79. Problem-based ideation


80. Industry seminars and conferences
81. Industry trade shows and exhibitions
82. Trade publications
83. Excursions
84. Customer site visits
85. Ethnography
86. Shadowing
87. Lead user analysis
88. Sales force
89. Installation technicians
90. Service technicians
91. Disposal/recycling
92. Manufacturing personnel
93. Customer service comments
94. Social media (Flickr, twitter, wikis, youtube, blogs, discussion forums, innovation hubs)
95. Online communities
96. Ratings and reviews
97. Track influencers
98. Observe competitors
99. Deconstruct competitor products
100. Learn how customers solve similar problems in other industries, cultures, geographies

What If (anticipating possible future conditions)

101. Trend projection/extrapolation
102. Scenarios
103. Historical analysis
104. Polling of experts, Delphi method
105. Visioning
106. War games
107. Models and simulations

Change the Product

108. Add smart technology to “not-smart” products/IoT (the Internet of Things)
109. Help your customer help their customers
110. Add-on services
111. Ancillary products
112. Consumables
113. Increase unit usage per customer
114. Reduce unit usage per customer
115. Reduce product waste
116. Add self-service
117. Add convenience
118. Reduce self-service
119. Add customization
120. Expand capabilities of the product
121. Reduce capabilities of the product (more targeted)
122. Reduce cost to buy, own, maintain
123. Improve design/cool factor/image
124. Customize for narrower market segments
125. Improve environmental friendliness
126. Reduce customer’s risk
127. Simplify the product/experience
128. Improve customer productivity
129. Make product modular to add flexibility
130. Change revenue model
131. Change cost structure
132. Add interfaces to complementary products and services
133. Change the experience (commodity, product, service, event/environment)
134. Add data to improve product use (license data or build your own database)
135. Enable customers to collect and analyze their own data
136. Change positioning
137. Reduce or eliminate unimportant factors (features, benefits)
138. Features and services to help channel partners (retailers, distributors, etc.)


139. Feedback systems (employees, outside)
140. Online focus groups/panels
141. Online surveys
142. Concept engineering, conjoint simulation
143. Immersion groups
144. User testing (your own products and competitors)

Ask for Ideas

145. Idea contests (e.g. IBM Open Innovation Challenge)
146. Tournaments (e.g. The Netflix Prize)
147. Customer advisory panels
148. Co-create with customers
149. Open the product platform to outside developers
150. Inventor programs to foster relationships
151. Technology scouting programs, start-ups
152. University research programs

Maintain a portal/suggestion box for collecting ideas from

153. Suppliers
154. Customers
155. Employees

Establish relationships with communities

156. Community of enthusiasts
157. External product designers
158. Partners and vendors
159. Suppliers (equipment/technology upgrades)
160. External scientific community

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