Wait a minute now. Design discipline is always couched on what is known at the moment. Novelty evolves from an inspired thought, not always conditioned by market forces nor by the profit motive...history should have taught us that.
What if the innovator is both designer AND engineer, surely there is no need to go the route suggested by Tom since the prototype will be more than good enough?...Just thoughts
There is much to be said for the value of following a well-defined process, as a program routes it way thru other disciplines (Marketing, Legal, Agency, etc.) These three depts., for example, have no clue of the design details and need a process to lean on.
I'm Designer AND Engineer, and I have often gone straight to prototype. It's the fastest and most fun route. But in retrospect, the projects that do allow peer review always have Value-Added. (Two heads are better than One).
Scott, the thing I have seen with "the prototype is enough" thinking is an excessive use of time and resources. What people tend to forget is that some good design thinking has to happen in order for you to get a prototype in the first place. Those who buy into this philosophy tend to espouse the "fail early fail often" mantra. I believe more in "fail early, fail often, fail smart". This simply means that with some simple informed design thinking up front, you may only have to build three prototypes to get to the final design instead of seven.
Point taken Tom...I suppose it depends on the scale of the idea. Experience in Aerospace Liaison Engineering has shown that despite all the talent in the world there are still so many nonconformances that show up in a new airplane that an army of Liaison guys are hired to disposition fixes both in Design and in Manufacturing.
In contrast a novelty bicycle design has a vast history behind it, millions of bike examples out there and lends itself to creative sculpting which doesn't interfere with fit, form or function.
I reckon that a singular approach does not fit all circumstances and requires modification to suit.
Scott, I agree, and your point is an important one. There are smaller projects that may not need much research at all at the get go. We always think in terms of what the project really needs, and scaling the efforts to meet the needs. beleive me, it is a lot harder to talk a customer into doing more research than it is to talk them into less!
Tom- you have summarized great points that need to be reiterated again and again. Not only to a small teams working on entrepreneurial concepts, but even to well establish Large-Cap firms who have been thru the process multiple times. Frequently, new managers, trying to outshine their predecessors for the glory of the spotlight, are eager to skip critical steps in interest of "The Schedule". Speaking from experience, the last (4) major electronics projects I've developed have all failed to ship, either because Marketing pushed thru a half-baked idea which didn't sell, or because Program Management's scheduling rushed past critical steps, and the end result failed. There are dozens of opportunities to fail, and only a disciplined, experienced team can navigate them all successfully.
I worked at a company where one of the engineers believed that a good design review meeting was one that left 'blood on the floor'. He also believed that you should not be in love with your design, or this review could be crushing to your ego. Upper Management was one of the owners, whose main criteria was that whoever shouted loudest was right. A lot of time and money were wasted on far-fetched ideas that ought to have been discarded.
I worked for a place where the Design Reviews reminded you of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"; someone had to be stoned to death. Rather than discussing what went right or wrong with the project, and maybe sharing resources for the next project, the review simply berated and bullied the engineers involved in the project with screaming insults and obscenities. The reviews were so brutal, it was the only reason why I left an otherwise enjoyable company.
Jim T, you must have the new and improved list of the six phases of a project:. The original went
4. Search for the guilty
5. Punishment of the innocent
6. Praise and glory for those not involved.
Not quite as much sunshine as your version, and possibly not as accurate, don't know for certain. But the one that I came up with many years back, which has been repeated a lot, is "I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it is a fast freight headed our way". That was next to my assertion that "you can't test quality into a product", which some folks still don't believe.
Glad you still had the "original." It's the same thing that passed by every Engineer's desk for a chuckle a decade or so, ago. I recanted the list from Memory, and so got it a little off. Obviously you and I have climbed thru similar trenches.
Another old favorite was (again from memory): Failure to Pre-plan on YOUR part does not constitute an Emergency on My part; most commonly found hanging in Tool Designers rooms for Product designers to see.
JimT, sometimes panic and disillusionment get exchanged, but the thing is certainly true in most cases. It was much more applicable where I worked for large companies early in my career. The much smaller companies had much less empire building, and much better overlap of skills sets.
The other one that I created goes "it turns out that if you use a big enough hammer you can fit a square peg in a round hole, BUT the fit may not be quite what you wanted, and there may be some damage done, THEREFORE, think carefully before hammering away". That sign had a bit of a tendancy to calm criticisms that did not have a valid reason backing them up. There were a few who always brought up that "we never did it that way before", whenever a suggestion was made to correct some flaw in a previous design. That company was toward the start of arriving at a period of creative designing that was a lot of fun. Once a couple of old guys retired and we could be creative.
I should point out that even there, design reviews were not critisizing sessions, but closer to the development process. Sometimes we would have the reviews quite early, since we didn't want to call them product development sessions. They were really "design idea reviews", which can be very useful.
William- I feel in reading your dialogues that we would work well together, with similar values and experiences. However, did it occur to you that perhaps a time has come where WE might be considered ",,,,the couple of old guys"-?
Jim T, Oh, I am definitely an old guy but not "one of the old guys", in that I seldom criticise an idea just because it is new. If it looks like somebody's idea won't work, I ask for an explanation as to how it will achieve what we want to have happen. That approach allows a presenter to either show me an idea that I had not considered, or to discover a problem as they are explaining the thing to me. Both have happened in the past. And sometimes we wind up with a new idea that looks good at which point we wind up doing a risk and cost evaluation. It turns out that some iseas would work very well but have a large cost penalty. In those cases we have asked a customer which they will choose, as we present them with options. Not everybody choses the cheapest way to go.
Cabe, Now I am wondering which response it was that made you laugh. I hope that it was not that most recent one, about asking somebody to explain their idea. That is also mentioned in a few management books.
"When critical preliminary steps are skipped, they can't be magically introduced at a later stage. In this case, usability research, criteria definition, and ideation exploration activities had been skipped over, and the group went straight to engineering to test an early concept. It can be painful to do the development process over if you skip steps."
Tom, now a day's technologies are moving/changing at a fast phase, so there won't be enough time to hang around for either market study or requirement gathering. So companies would prefer to complete all the cycles within a short span of time and to productize the technology
In the Dilbertesque world we work in minimizing risk doesn't pay. Say a market niche opens and half a dozen companies start developing a product for it. Company O uses an orderly design process minimizing risk at all steps and eventually comes up with a good product. Unfortunately the other companies rush their development processes and take extreme risks by cutting corners. Most of these companies products fail. But it is likely one or two of the risky programs will succeed and beat company O to market.
Careful prudent design practices have become the path to mediocrity.
Sometimes careful prudent designs are the only ones that can succeed. I am thinking of the medical field in particular where history has shown that some things rushed to market cause more problems than they cure. There are also documented cases where negative results have been altered or hidden in order to get a product to market first.
Lawyers love those cases where steps have been skipped and it does not matter if 99% plus have been successful, some attorney somewhere will find case # 1000 and illuminate the missing step.
It seems like the main difference of opinion here is whether or not there is time to do a thoughtful job of upfront research. A friend of mine has a grandfather who always said, "the hurrieder you go, the behinder you get". Another friend has always said, ''There is never enough time to do it right, but there is always enough time to do it over". I think there is a lot of wisdom in these sayings.
It doesn't need to take an immense amount of time to do up front research. If a company bails on it because they think it will take 3 months and 150k, there are other options. We have done short research projects for customers in just a week. The benefit is that the design team (engineers and designers) get to work with what I call "A Priori" knowledge... they can design in an informed way, knowing a bit better about what the design "needs" to be.
What we found worked very well has been to have an idea and then share it with a group of (very qualified) people who are able to both identify problems and provide both additional insight and valid solutions. So we would talk for a couple of hours in the morning and then a couple more hours later that day. At this point we would have a fairly detailed description which we would pass on to both marketing and sales people. The following week we would get feedback, and then discuss just what changes were needed or not needed.
The big difference is that we were all interested in having a product that was successful, since that was not only an ego reward, but also would be resulting in a financial reward. OUr management would routinely reward successes, which did have a quite positive effect on moral. And all of us understood that the project success depended on all of it working well, rather than empire protection.
So the short explanation is that success comes from having a very good team working togather as a very good team.
William K; Well said. A group of qualified people who are interested in the success of the project, rather than self-aggrandizing or empire-building, are essential to the success of the team, and the project.
William, thats absolutely correct its total team work . No idea or product can be successfull unless you have worked like a team all the failed products are the example of bad teamwork or no team work. As it is said that you should not love your idea its really a very good line . One should be flexible enough to make changes in his or her project because the ultimate thing that someone wants is the result and in order to drive good result we should have the stamina to discuss ideas with others and have the courage to listen positive and negative points of it and revamp our project accordingly.
TEKOCHIP--Add me to your list. We three must have worked for the same company. Our design reviews were so brutal they drove most design engineers to deep conservative thinking. Management always stressed--let's "think out of the box" yet being innovative was setting yourself up for ridicule. It truly was survival of the fittest. We did have structure; i.e. DG(design guidance), DC (design confirmation), PP (pre-pilot), pilot then production. We might go through DG(1), DG(2), DG(3) etc . but in every case the clock was ticking and schedules were slipping. We were definitely evaluated at the end of the program relative to schedule attainment and holding costs within stated guidelines for the particular program.
I like the story you have given to explain how the entire process can come crumbling down Tom but I tend to think that cases like these are more random than the norm and that this story almost always usually goes a different way with the entire idea becoming a great success. I think that the entire process, from the napkin to production, should be driven by a belief in the design selected and a passion to make it succeed. With enough expertise on board this method can hardly fail.
AnandY, I would agree with you 100%, belief in the selected design, passion to succeed, and good team expertise are essential. I think my main thought here was to point out how useful the up front research can be in arriving at that 'selected design'.
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