Being able to think critically before developing a product is crucial in attacking and solving the right problem. One popular method for Product Management brainstorming is the CIRCLES method. Let us quickly check out what that is all about:
1. Comprehend the situation
This is the first step. It basically means asking the right questions to understand the problem and what is being asked and what are the goals. Often times one may bring their own assumptions and biases and completely go off tangent from the initial problem.
2. Identify customers
You need to identify who is going to benefit from the product or service. It is critical to know how many people would be using it, and what are the demographics of the potential users.
3. Report customer needs
This may be closely aligned with the user group identified above. It is not necessarily a sequential step from the above. Finding the pain points can also reveal more about the customers or vice versa.
4. Cut, through prioritization
Now you have the vague problems, what problem requires an immediate solution? Any problem or pain point that is feasible to attack? Is the problem worthy of the investment? How many people will be required? How much capital and how much technical effort is required for each one of those?
Once you have a prioritized list of problems, can you identify which problem you need to solve first?
5. List solutions
Now let us talk about Design Thinking, can you suggest probable solutions to the problem you defined? Does another solution solve it in a different way? What are the drawbacks and compromises for each of the solutions? Would the scale?
6. Evaluate trade-offs
It is recommended that you have a bunch of solutions and think critically through their strengths and weaknesses. So you have a fair chance of not falling into your own biases.
Remember, you need to come up with hypothetical solutions and let the market provide the validation for the hypothesis. You should not fall in love with your own imaginary solution. May be it is not as great in practice as you imagined in the first place. So be aware, and list a range of solutions!
7. Summarize recommendations
Now as you went through the thought process, can you rank the solutions and identify which one to implement? What are the assumptions again? What is the target audience or customer group? What are their pain points?
Just recap your thoughts so you have a mental map of the whole area you just explored in your mind.
Finally, this is not just a useful framework for Product Management, but also a great critical thinking framework in general.