I come up with new ideas for services, apps or businesses all the time, almost every day. Now, obviously I can’t do them all. There just isn’t that many hours in a day. So how do I decide which ones to pursue? I guess there isn’t necessarily any rhyme or reason to it, at least, not a lot. Mostly it just has to do with how clearly I can see the entire roadmap of the idea. For example, sometimes I think of an idea, which sounds great, but after I think about it a little more I realize there isn’t a very good way to execute it, given my current situation.
For example: I have a game that I’ve wanted to ‘play’ for years. The play part is key here, and we’ll get back to that in a minute. The idea behind the game is that the better you get in real-life, the better you get in the game. So if you get stronger in real-life, you get stronger in the game. Same goes with the rest of the skills or levels in the game (as far as they make sense, obviously I don’t envision people actually mining, or forging things out of metal). Now, a game like this doesn’t exist. Since I want to play it, I can guarantee others would want to play it too. Which is the key to a good idea, if it’s an issue or a want in your life, there is a good chance that it’s an issue or problem in someone else’s too.
Now, occasionally I pursue various ideas for this game or maybe a more toned down version. Or even sometimes I get inspired about a story-line that could fit well with the game. When I get inspired, I don’t argue with myself, I just work on it. I have dozens of files, and multiple different version, languages & concepts all relating to ‘The Game’. I’ve given it different names at different times, and it’s had a few different premises, but the core dream has never changed. But why don’t I just pursue it for 6 months and get a beta version working? Simple, I’m not in a position currently to do that.
What I mean is, there are other things more important to me. There are other things I want to build. There are also skills required to make the game that A) I don’t have, B) I don’t want. In order to truly accomplish what I want, it would have to be made using some kind of Virtual Reality system. I’m not a graphics designer or graphics programmer. I can do it, but it would take me years to get to the point of being able to design & implement a game in a VR setting. But if I could hire a team of developers & artists to help me accomplish my dream, I would. That is where planning out ideas comes in.
Since I can’t hire a team of people right now, I’ll work on ideas that I can actually get to ‘shippable’ by myself, or with 1 other person. Though this sounds easy, I assure it is not. It still requires hours of work, and thought and methodical planning. Plus, outside of just creating it, you need a marketing plan. Otherwise you just spent a ton of time, to not make any money. There are 2 trains of thought that I have come across as far as ‘when to market’ goes.
One train of thought, is if the product isn’t perfect, marketing it and having people finding bugs/errors/flaws with it will kill your company. The second one is, push fast, fix faster. The idea behind the second train of thought is (especially in terms of a web service) nothing is permanent. You can fix the issues faster, if you know what they are. If no-one is using features D & E of your service, why fix the bugs in them? If people are using feature B in a way you didn’t originally intend, why spend a few dozen hours making it perfect, just to make a 90 degree turn to meet the actual needs of the end-user?
I can’t necessarily say which one is better. Both have been done in successful products. What I can tell you, is having a marketing PLAN is never a bad thing. You don’t need a product to have a plan. You only need an idea to have a plan. If you can’t see the entire road for taking your idea from a thought, to a profitable business, then the likelihood of it ever getting done is almost non-existent. You can think about a plan the entire time your designing, creating & building.
So in conclusion, how do I decide which ideas to pursue? The ones where I can clearly see how it will become a profitable business. How I can build it, design it and market it. If I can’t see all of those things, usually it doesn’t even stay in my head that long, because it usually means there is a core disconnect between the problem-scope that the idea solves, and the solution I thought of.