After a night out with the guys, burning through five bar-napkin sketches, the perfect product idea is born. Or is it? How do you determine if your idea is worthwhile and worth pursing?
A common mistake that entrepreneurs, and even large medical-device companies, tend to make is that they start with an idea that propels them essentially to the middle of the product development process.
For example, a device manufacturer realized a need in the market for an improved version of its device. One of their engineers had an idea, and he spent six months engineering a prototype. At that point, he realized it needed a better-looking handle, so he decided to employ some design.
The design team realized there were several better ways to create a device to meet the need, and they prototyped a version to show to the manufacturer. At that point the manufacturer said, "That seems great, but we have six months of engineering expenditure on what we already have, and we can't depart from that now."
That device never made it to market.
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.
Most entrepreneurs we work with are very passionate about their ideas. They demonstrate an uncommon stick-to-itiveness that is important to make their idea reality. But don't fall in love with your own idea.
It pays to investigate the idea. Try to come up with as many different product solutions as possible. Then evaluate the various solutions, even with actual users, to get it down to the best one. A lot of work must occur before you get to that one particular concept.
Design-driven thinking forces you to think about many important factors before leaping into engineering the details of one concept. With a design-driven mentality, you will be not only considering defining the need, but also defining the needs surrounding the need. This type of thinking requires investigation into the world that the user lives in, talking to users, finding pain points, and converting those issues into need statements. It involves producing design criteria from those need statements, and letting the creative team come up with as many concepts as possible to fulfill those criteria.
Many people understand when they have discovered a legitimate need. How you solve that need takes a lot more investigation into the nuances of the needs surrounding the need.
If you follow a process with a design-driven mentality and you have a good holistic creative team, some wonderful magic can arise from their efforts leading to innovative solutions you would have never thought of otherwise.
Tom Kramer is passionate about making ideas become reality. You can either find him at Kablooe Design, helping his customers develop the latest and greatest products, or speaking at various industry events on the topics of innovation and optimizing the product development process.