The 3 Minute Technique for Brainstorming Your Startup's Product Roadmap

Recently I met a startup founder who explained a technique for building his product roadmap in a novel way. “We research what our users are doing three minutes before they start using our product and the three minutes after.” I like the idea because it is a simple and ingenious mechanism for brainstorming product ideas, and this type of product development exploration evokes empathy from a product team, which is a the first step of the Stanford d.School and IDEO’s Design Thinking Processes.

The 3 minute techniques surfaces three potentially interesting avenues for a product’s future development.

First, it helps a product team explore how the product’s scope might expand to include the tasks a user currently performs immediately before or after using the current product. Broadening a product’s feature set to include adjacent activities should increase engagement and ultimately retention.

Second, the 3 minutes technique should reveal the users’ mindset at the point of using a product, which has implications for design. Great product design is telepathic. The secret to telepathy is empathy. Is the user in a rush? Does the user have a particular task to complete when logging into the product? How can the product rise to anticipate the needs of the user in this mindset?

Third, this technique reveals the cues that trigger a user to log-in. To be successful, products must change user behavior. Understanding which of hundreds of potential triggers like summary emails, push notifications, an internal workflow process, a particular time of day or week is critically important key to enticing users to return to the product time and again.

I’m curious to know if you have other techniques like the 3 minute technique for exploring user workflows, building empathy and developing a product roadmap to anticipate user needs. Let me know in the comments.

Published 2014-06-17 in startups  product  Best Practices 


I am partner at Redpoint. I write daily, data-driven blog posts about key questions facing startups. I co-authored the book, Winning with Data. Join more than 20,000 others receiving these blog posts by email.

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