Submitted by Mitch Bossart, Kablooe Design

Let’s face it. Getting a product to market is difficult whether you are a struggling startup or an established original equipment manufacturer (OEM) with a large budget. However, understanding some of the pitfalls on the front end might help you surmount these issues before they become time and money wasters.

Getting stuck in perpetual redesign
Many companies, when they near the end of the engineering phase, keeping tweaking the product “just one more time” before letting it go into production. And these changes keep happening, again and again. Someone thinks of a better option for a component, so that is implemented. Then someone thinks of another idea, so that is developed and implemented before release. The intent is good: Make the product better, faster, and cheaper. 

But there is a better way to get there.

This behavior can be diminished with a good exploratory phase. It will not only be important to do lots of sketches, and rough mockups (or ‘protocepts’), but also to talk through them with the team. Discuss the pros and cons of each idea, evaluate how they meet criteria, go outside your immediate circle and talk to users and key stakeholders. You will never eliminate all changes at the end of the development cycle, but if you pay due diligence here, your downstream delays should be greatly reduced. There will always be change, but there will be less change, if you use a thorough exploratory phase.

Going to market with the wrong product
Is this the ideal scenario? Your product design goes swimmingly, design and engineering have few disagreements, and even the production personal have almost no complaints about manufacturing snafu’s when building the product—and you actually delivered without exceeding time and budget constraints.

Things are going great!

You’ll probably get a huge raise and soon be running the company. But after a several months, reality hits. Product sales are dismal and no matter what marketing does, the product is not widely adopted. Why? Because the product is not what the market really wanted in the first place.

Design research that includes usability and human factors research may have prevented this from happening.

Many companies make the mistake of believing that voice of the customer (VOC) exercises are enough. However, remember what Henry Ford so famously said: “If I had done what my customers asked for, I would have made a faster horse.”

 

 

Customers can tell you what they think and feel about a product but they cannot tell you what the product should be. That’s your job. Take user thoughts and feelings and translate them into actionable solutions or design inputs. Too often, developers simply act directly on the ideas users spit out, and it is often not the optimum solution. There has been more than one story where, during validation testing, it is discovered that users don’t like the product. Again, you are stuck at the end of the cycle. Good design research with talented product developers can make a big difference.

Developing “me too” products that don’t stand out
Everyone struggles with how to make their products different or better than the competition. Solution? Just make the same thing. Or similar enough without infringing on patent rights. So what you have is a “me too” product that looks the same, works the same, and, for all intents and purposes, is the same as your competitor. Maybe there is one added feature that gets you around the patent issue, but it’s a marketing problem. Right?

Wrong.

Companies often don’t know how to handle the very earliest stages of product development that include brainstorming and ideation, which is where innovation can propel you past the competition, instead of just copying them. But you need to do it correctly in a way that yields truly creative results that will leapfrog the competition.

For effective brainstorming and ideation, you need to, among other things, invite a cross disciplined team, have a moderator, have a recorder, and limit such meetings to 40 minutes sessions. This is just scratching the surface of effective brainstorming. For more information on effective brainstorming, visit KablooeU.com and look under “Enlightened Innovators.”

Getting new products to market will always be a struggle, but if you create a thorough exploratory phase, invest upfront in design research, and utilize effective brainstorming techniques, then your struggles will be diminished and, hopefully, you will save lots of time and money on the backend. Most importantly, you will deliver truly innovative products that will make a big market impact.

 

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