Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Top 10 Reasons Good Product Ideas Don’t Get Implemented

Have you ever had a really good idea about how to improve a product or website, and suggested it to the people who manage that product directly or indirectly (e.g. via a tweet)? Was your idea promptly implemented? If so, great! If not, then this post is addressed to you and intended to explain why not.

Below, I’ve listed what I think are the Top 10 (rational) reasons why good ideas don’t get implemented with the hope that you consider which might apply to your idea, rather than just assuming mismanagement, incompetence, or general asleep-at-the-wheelness (which also occur). You can think of them as a series of filters your idea needs to pass through to get to green-light. Unfortunately, as an outsider you will rarely have enough information or data to determine which reason your idea got stuck on. Sorry.

  1. Your idea is a bad idea - Let’s dispense with this one first. Some ideas are just stinkers and would actually damage the product if implemented or be costly with no return on investment.
  2. Your idea is a small idea or only affects a small user segment – This is a common one. Your idea helps users only a little bit, or helps only a few of them. There are bigger fish to fry.
  3. Your idea is a solution in search of a problem – This is every presentation you ever saw at ETech. It is every technology developed without an end-user in mind, but with a customer bolted on later. You know it when you see it.
  4. Your idea has unintended consequences – Your product idea is pure goodness, but its value is neutralized or minimized by a side effect that is pure badness.
  5. Your idea is in a non-strategic area – Within every product or business there are strategic, investment areas and non-strategic areas. To win, businesses must focus their energy and effort on the former, which often requires that they starve the latter. If your idea affects a non-strategic area, it might be a great one but still doesn’t make sense to implement.
  6. Your idea is not as good as other ideas – If a product is managed well, then your idea needs to be prioritized against many other good ideas. Your idea may get implemented, but only when the well of better ideas runs dry.
  7. Your idea has legal or privacy obstacles – Plenty of good ideas have been rightfully killed by lawyers just doing their jobs.
  8. Your idea has problematic dependencies – The dependency might be another internal product, a vendor, or a partner company. The problems might be political, technical, or financial.
  9. Your idea is based on untestable assumptions (i.e. leaps of faith) - Note the distinction between untested and untestable.
  10. Your idea would require a strategic shift – No matter how good, it may not be powerful enough to overcome the product’s inertia.
I hope this doesn't sound too cynical. In practice, the way around these barriers is to generate lots of new product ideas, quickly discard ones who fail one or more of these tests, and focus energy on those that make it through.

Drop a comment if you come up with other good ones I've missed.



  1. Nice list. My favorite is #1, direct and to the point.

  2. People don't like change. Many ideas would have been great to have early on, but just aren't good enough to justify changing people's habits now.