Historically, the two main approaches used by good teams to come up with product opportunities have been:
You can think of the first as following the market, and the second as following the technology. Either way can get you to a winning product.
However, some of the most successful companies today have taken a third approach, and while it's not appropriate for every company, I would like to suggest that this is an extremely powerful technique that's largely underutilized and underappreciated in our industry.
This third alternative is to allow, and even encourage, our customers to use our products to solve problems other than what we planned for and officially support.
Mike Fisher, a longtime friend of mine, wrote a book called The Power of Customer Misbehavior. This book tells the eBay and Facebook stories from a viral growth perspective, but there are several other very good examples in there, too.
From its earliest days, eBay has always had an “Everything Else” category. This is where people could buy and sell things that we at eBay couldn't anticipate people ...