by Kashyap Bhansali
How to find your next big idea by creating a better workflow
How do you brainstorm ideas?
You look for problems around you. Once you find a problem, you quickly develop an App, publish it on the mighty internet, and mint money ?.
Only if it were that easy.
The biggest mistake we often make is to find “problems”. It’s just that most things don’t appear to us as problems, at least to me they don’t.
For most people, we don’t stumble upon great ideas very frequently. And one fine day when you come up with a super awesome game-changing idea, you find out a bazillion other products exist that do the exact same thing. Maybe even better than you thought.
You wonder and dig further to understand how so many apps that do pretty much the same thing, solving the same problems, are doing so well. What is the secret to their product’s success? Could you target the same niche of problems and do amazingly well too?
Do you know what the most successful products are selling to their users? They are not selling an “idea,” because they know those zillion others are doing the same. Instead, they sell something that sets their product apart from others.
Its all about a product’s unique way of guiding its user to perform a set of tasks seamlessly. This unique way is what we call a workflow.
Some examples of good Workflows we often hear these days: Deploy your Web App with “One Click”, Integrate e-commerce with “One Click”, Do XYZ with “Zero configuration”, “Auto Tag” your Instagram photos, and so on.
I hope you get the point. Its all about how easy you make it for your potential users to achieve something with your product. Let your product do the heavy-lifting of the whole process. That's where your engineering skills come in.
But let’s not deviate from the main focus of this post: “Users” and “Workflows”.
Workflow is defined as the sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion.
Look at a Product as a set of Workflows
Your product can do more than one thing. It can be a single point solution that helps achieve multiple things. This combination is what creates great value for your users.
For example, in 2007, three important workflows were combined to create a beautiful new product. Watch it below!
Three workflows — a music player, a phone and an internet communicator — combined and gave birth to the iPhone.
The idea of workflows can apply to everything around us. Let it be software or something else. Although my thoughts are around software for now.
How to shape an idea for your next product
First of all, it is important to find your niche. What are you good at? What knowledge do you already possess? How can you leverage past experiences to develop something that you know and care about? How would it make a difference for a million others like you?
Most of the time, you will see the market is kind of saturated for a certain product idea, but you can actually use it to your advantage. See what works and what doesn’t. Understand how it is creating value for its users.
And don’t just look at the known good ones. Also, analyze the products that didn’t make it to the top. Sometimes, it is good to know what will not work. Once you develop this mindset of evaluating a product based on its Workflows, you are doing your market research right.
Once you find something good, identify what is missing. Could you make parts of it better? Could you reduce the number of steps to achieve the same outcome? Could you make it more cost-effective? Could you combine good workflows to offer a single point solution?
Productivity is closely tied with Workflows
How much time and effort is it saving? Why is it important? Because that’s how our world progresses.
When you develop something that saves someone’s time and effort, that saved time can be put to good use somewhere else.
For example, think about automation. Automation is saving millions of human-hours, that can be put to good use to develop and automate even more difficult things. This is what helps create breakthroughs in every field. It starts a chain reaction of saving precious time that leads to increased overall productivity.
Think of a Unicorn like Uber: the app has a good workflow that makes it easy to connect drivers with riders, and gives the rider the ability to easily track the driver’s location. It has a workflow that enables carpooling, which make rides relatively cheaper and there is less idle time for drivers. It’s a win-win for both riders and drivers.
Sure running a company is not easy. But if you can see the bigger picture, your workflow could become very valuable — maybe the world won’t be able to imagine a time without it.
You can look at things in one more way. You must have read many articles explaining how millennials have a short span of attention. There exist so many distractions that we have limited time to focus.
As a developer one should think about workflows that help a user get the most value from that short attention span. It’s crucial to make the flows as natural as possible for the user, such that there is a minimal learning curve. This is how great tools make you depend on them and you don’t even realize it — in a good way.
This kind of thinking has grown small startup ideas into Unicorns. That’s the difference: you keep thinking of startup ideas when you should really be thinking of solving the workflow.
Here is your bonus for sticking until the end:
Masters of Scale is an original podcast hosted by Reid Hoffman, Co-founder of LinkedIn and Investor at Greylock. In each episode, Reid shows how companies grow from zero to a gazillion, testing his theories with legendary leaders.
I am Kashyap Bhansali and this is my first post on Medium. Its a chance for me to escape my mind chatter and sum up my thoughts & experiences.
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