A former product engineer serves up a simple process to help companies choose the right ideas.
Here’s a stunning statistic: Companies “can consume 50 percent of development time” on the “fuzzy front end” of a product’s life cycle—the time when a product concept is formulated and the company decides whether or not to pursue the idea. Parker’s book is all about fixing this problem by using the dramatically simple “idea sheet” process. By creating a single, one-sided sheet of paper with a solid description of each idea, the author writes, a company’s product development team can quickly sift through the ideas, weed out the bad ones and pursue only the good ones. Lest the reader think the idea sheet is a no-brainer, it does require two crucial buy-ins: First, management (whom Parker labels “the boss”) has to support the process and second, valued customers need to be recruited as idea filters. Ultimately, it is a customer’s reaction to an idea that determines its go/no-go status. Parker meticulously details the entire idea sheet process, sometimes to a fault. He offers a blow-by-blow description of every element and each moment in an idea sheet meeting. At times, this level of specificity suggests the author’s objective is to bulk up the book since the content is too lean. On the positive side, Parker supplements the description of the process with idea sheet examples, a scenario—in which an engineer’s emotional involvement with an idea dooms it to failure—that represents what not to do, and some of his own experiences. All of this is good, but the book suffers from redundancy; it seems, for instance, that the author merely restates the same steps of the idea sheet process meeting in two different chapters. The text could be more crisply written, and black-and-white illustrations separating the chapters tend to look amateurish. Still, managers seeking an easy-to-implement way to cut down on wasted front-end product development time could benefit from Parker’s process.
Relevant for some product development teams, but others may find the core idea too basic for their needs.