Back to resources

Using Opportunity Mapping to Create Amazing Products From a Wall Of Wild Ideas

Product
Roadmap

28 December, 2020

Roland Butler
Roland Butler

Product Director / Head of Product at Ex. TheFork (TripAdvisor), Just Eat, Bookatable (Michelin)

Roland Butler, ex-Product Director at TheFork (TripAdvisor), Just Eat and Bookatable (Michelin), explains how opportunity mapping helped him better understand where he wanted to take his product(s) and where unmet customer needs are.

Problem

To be able to decide between a myriad of opportunities and choose the ones that will propel your product to the next level, product managers should start their journey by collecting all the possible opportunities casting the net as wide as possible. Instead of re-iterating on the theme and repeating themselves, they should stop for a moment and take a look at the totality of all the existing opportunities.

Product managers should be continuously talking to customers identifying all their needs and pain points and then gathering ideas collected in blue sky sessions and marketing surveys and research on the competition.

Actions taken

Every four months -- a provenly good cadence -- you should stop, step away from the daily tasks and review your wall of wild ideas. The wall of ideas is a precursor to the opportunity map and a powerful ideation method that will help you generate the plenitude of ideas. You should pick an idea, draw it on a card, and put it on a wall. Ideas are added following informal conversations you are having, brainstorming sessions, the latest research, etc. I prefer using physical cards and placing them on a real wall located in one of our offices. While virtual tools can also be useful, I find the tangibility of physical things rather powerful. For the remote setting, I would suggest Miro boards that could be nicely arranged into clusters.

Each card is placed on the wall without any hierarchical order. When your wall becomes populated with ideas, you should group them by themes. For example, ideas could relate to a specific customer segment or user problem. The challenge is to single out ideas worth pursuing further and submit them to a more rigorous examination. This selection process should come prior to any revision or the development of a new strategy and/or even selecting objectives for the next quarter.

Clearly, you won’t be able to address every need or pain point customers have. And it is here that opportunity mapping should help you select customer problems to solve that would drive the desired outcome as established at the company level. To learn which are those opportunities, you should work up selected ideas in a bit more detail and take them into an initial user testing or simple paper prototype. You should then evaluate the size of the market and different opportunities with more rigorous user research to check that those ideas would resonate with people.

I think that picking two to three ideas is optimal and leaving the rest on the wall for another session. To better understand what would be the ideas that would have the biggest impact, you can bring them to life in an entirely made-up world; there are many examples of these, the most typical being a short film made with the help of video engineers, UX designers, and CGI specialists showcasing how our product will look and the role it will play in people’s lives in a five-year time. This approach also generates enthusiasm and excitement for people on the team because this long-term projection stirs their ambition and reminds them why they joined the company.

Lessons learned

  • Understanding the opportunity space and selecting the most impactful ideas that will bring the highest value and desired outcome is at the crux of any product leader’s job. The wall of ideas and opportunity mapping are the most useful tools that rely on the process of visualization to help product leaders make the best decisions within the often perplexing opportunity space.
  • I prefer visual, tangible tools and was impressed by the impact that a photo comic book we created had. Each frame of the comic book contained multiple ideas from our wall of ideas that helped us decide which of these frames we would bring to life. We also did a video that was inspirational and galvanized the whole team. Sometimes, a prototype in Sketch would be more compelling than a mediocre video, but both should be considered as illustrative exercises in a presentation.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

Scaling a Team in Two Parts: The Product and Manager

2 August

Viswa Mani Kiran Peddinti, Sr Engineering Manager at Instacart, walks through his experience scaling a team, product and his skills as a leader.

Managing Expectations
Product
Scaling Team
Leadership
Meetings
Viswa Mani Kiran Peddinti

Viswa Mani Kiran Peddinti

Sr Engineering Manager at Instacart

How to Organize, Manage, and Grow Your Team

12 July

Vineet Puranik, Senior Engineering Manager at DocuSign, discusses the impact of roadmaps, organization, and proper management for your teams to procure growth.

Managing Expectations
Delegate
Collaboration
Roadmap
Strategy
Vineet Puranik

Vineet Puranik

Senior Engineering Manager at DocuSign

How Product Management Chose Me

23 June

My accidental journey into product management

Product
Personal Growth
New PM
Career Path
Michael Castro

Michael Castro

Sr. Manager, Product Management at Capital One

How Product Marketing Can (and Should) Help Product Development

20 June

Pavel Safarik, Head of Product at ROI Hunter, discusses the frequently overlooked role of product marketing in getting high user adoption rates for your product.

Goal Setting
Product Team
Product
Different Skillsets
Cross-Functional Collaboration
Pavel Safarik

Pavel Safarik

Head of Product at ROI Hunter

Dealing with Uncertainties and Adapting as You Go

14 June

Muhammad Hamada, Engineering Manager at HelloFresh, addresses the uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, how these have affected our work environments, and how we can adapt.

Goal Setting
Internal Communication
Collaboration
Roadmap
Stakeholders
Prioritization
Muhammad Hamada

Muhammad Hamada

Engineering Manager at HelloFresh