Tuesday, March 25, 2014

1. Have I researched and planned enough for the development process?

Taking from my last post, we revisit this question in a bit more depth as it pertains to product development...

I would break this down into two categories: 1. The Research, and 2. The Planning, in that order as well.

Performing the necessary research is critical. Number one, is this world-changing idea actually already on the market or in development somewhere else? Simple Internet searches can find all sorts of would-be competitors of your product. And while we all live in our myopic worlds, the reality is that there may be someone else in the world with the same idea, and they may just be light years ahead of you in execution. Let's say you find nothing in the world like it - better make sure there is an actual market. In some cases, you may build your own market (read www.blueoceanstrategy.com) or invent a need or trend others never would have thought of (see the famous 'Snuggie'). Typically, the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention is somewhat accurate. Although in some cases, I might disagree - nobody really ever needed a Snuggie, except maybe Canadians. Why not, Canada, they're fun like you!
But I digress. The point is that researching prior art in patents, locating similar products, understanding the consumer and defining the needs of that consumer are critical. You can have the greatest idea in the world but it might not solve a big enough problem, or becomes too much of a novelty to take seriously. Therefore, it is only really great to you. Now, don't be discouraged. Most of us who love to invent new products or revolutionize a daily routine will no doubt, in the many attempts at finding the right one, actually deliver on a solid idea. DaVinci, Edison, Ben Franklin - All of them had more ideas on paper than they ever carried forward. Sometimes it is just a matter of timing. The one diligent effort all three of the aforementioned made was the research leading up to the development.

Planning can be boring. Most of us in the creative process look at planning as something to throw to the business analyst at the end of the hall. While we abhor the process of planning, the fact is that we deliver a far superior end result as a direct descendant of the planning process. Be diligent here. Take time to think the process through. It will never be perfect the first time or even the 10th for that matter, however, following through with a detailed plan can thwart so many of the pitfalls you will always face during development. I know very few products that went through a development process as planned. Typically, the plan will morph to the obstacles you encounter, and as I stated in the original post - LEARN from them. These are great opportunities to develop skills you might not have nurtured previously. I like to keep notes on the sidelines of my planning notebooks. Little comments and anecdotes on how things progressed. Sometimes these notes become invaluable in future planning sessions as well. If you feel planning is not your thing, hire a business coach or similar to assist. It is worth the investment and can allow for big rewards at execution. We use a business coach monthly to help us track our goals and keep our eyes focused on the bigger picture, all the while recording the details to make each venture a success. Whatever the method you choose, I would always suggest that front-loading a comprehensive planning session will often times help you sort out important details you may miss if you fail to plan accordingly.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Product Development Cycle Part 1 - Asking the fundamental questions.

Yes, I am actually going to publish on the blog. Amazing, I know...

Whether you are a seasoned inventor, a hobbyist turned business owner, or even the average schmuck who stumbled into a revolutionary idea, there are some fundamental concerns you need to address before going down the road of product development. All too often I see those that truly do represent a good, solid idea for a new product, however, all too often they misfire when attempting to realize their success in execution.

You have to ask yourself some preliminary questions when beginning your new venture into product development:

1. Have I researched and planned enough for the development process? Thoroughly vetting the idea to ensure it has viability, potential market accessibility, and even avoiding the common occurrence that it has or does exist in a market already will allow for a better plan for execution. Jumping into the execution process can be fatal for the project if rushed. In addition, the old adage 'a failure to plan is a plan to fail' is as accurate as it reads. It took me years to become a better planner, and you have to continually improve your methods and practices. Take a look at 99U (www.behance.com) for some wonderful personal/professional improvement concepts.

2. Will I be patient enough to carry through the process? More often than naught, the process takes 2-3 times longer than expected, and managing the obstacles and challenges that occur can derail the train of execution. Frustration, annoyance, and disappointment will visit you often, so accept them as learning opportunities instead of hated adversaries! Granted, you do not wish to invite them for tea and crumpets, but when they do arrive you have to make the best of an unfortunate meeting! Treat every day you work on your development as a day of learning, and you will become far more cooperative with the process.

3. Am I willing to fund this properly to ensure success? Similar to question 2, the development investment will be greater than what is initially considered. Plan to have a healthy reserve, or access to additional capital, just to be sure! Remember, too, that if you are looking to protect your intellectual property, you better consider a VERY large reserve! Patents themselves aren't cheap, but the money it takes to defend them is enormous. Sometimes it may be advised to take those hard earned dollars and thrust them towards other investment needs in the process.

4. Do I know what resources I need to get this thing done? Huge question here... I build a resource tree. It looks like a family tree, except crazy Aunt Mildred is NOT on the page! Each branch is a different discipline (graphic design, injection molding, fabric supplier, etc.) that I trace out to smaller branches that are the people, companies, resources, etc. that I can go to for particular needs. If your tree is a sapling, it may be hard to achieve execution any faster than the tree grows, which can lead to question #2! If this scares you, hire someone to help you expedite the process by using THEIR tree (hint, that's LUSB!)

5. Am I the right person for this project? This is a tough question, often answered too far into the process and at the point of despair. You truly have to be honest with yourself and identify if you have the right traits and habits to make it successful. Otherwise, you will drive yourself crazy not seeing success, and likely annoy the heck out of friends and family as you continuously talk about the project but never show progress. Trust me, I've been there! You may consider an alternative route, like licensing the idea to others or selling it outright. Those options still allow you the comfort of knowing you generated the idea, some financial reward, and the opportunity to move onto to another great idea!

I encourage, but caution, everyone to pursue ideas and follow them through the process if they see fit. I do, however, believe that each of us possess specific traits and habits that can either propel an idea into reality or dismantle it into obscurity. I believe the journey can be the most rewarding part of the process, and there is more than one way to get to the end result. Choosing that path should parallel your gut instinct on what you feel you can add, or what you might take away, from the success of the project...