What Goes Down, Must Come Up (Part 1)
I’m writing about how ideas and feedbacks are now managed by organizations. Organizations use to collect ideas and feed them down funnels, and now businesses are using crowdsourcing to allow ideas to bubble up (for example, see SAP’s Idea Place). To me, this is a fundamental shift that gives users a greater voice, and makes businesses more transparent. (See last week’s Social Media Impact on Transparency about the impact of Social Media on transparency for corporations, governments and news outlets.)
Days of funnels are numbered
Funnel exercises were typically performed privately, and involved putting in ideas, sales opportunities, or feature requests, while parameters like time, budget, and technical know-how acted as constraints that only let out what could be managed at the bottom. It is because of this lack of transparency for customers that make me believe the days of using funnels are now numbered (especially for deciding features/functionalities to add to next product releases).
The practice of evaluating all inputs behind closed-doors isn’t the only issue I have with the use of funnels. When I was a product manager, I grew to know what ideas or features would fit through the funnel when it came time to decide what to include in the next product release. So, in a way, the funnel turned into a sieve. The funnel exercise also required a snapshot or a freeze of ideas or opportunities. Ideas that could be great, but not yet at a point to be articulated, were typically not nurtured or considered again.
The future of funnels
What happens to most things that don’t receive nurturing? Usually they die. These funnel exercises therefore need to be short, allowing multiple iterations to start-stop-and restart, or multiples streams that overlap, and allow different ideas to develop. In a way, this permits the inorganic funnel process to be more organic to allow growing-shrinking, born-die-freeze-abort. This way instead of a sieve, the funnel becomes an organic ‘broth’ that incubates ideas until they’re ready for development.