There are no guarantees of success when developing a new product. In fact, there are no guarantees for success in anything we undertake in life. As product developers, though, there is something in us, some internal optimism that pushes us to create new products and experiences. This optimism drives us to embark on the long journey of developing a new product. We believe we will succeed, no matter the odds.
Optimism aside, there are some cold hard facts about new product success that are important to keep in mind. Not knowing them doesn’t make them go away. It only makes your competitor that does, more likely than you to be the one to succeed. I don’t believe that there is one magic bullet for success in developing a new product. Just as in life, it comes down to a combination of many things in just the right order and amount. Like the ingredients in the perfect meal.
”There is no magic bullet for success in developing a new product. Just as in life, it comes down to a combination of many things in just the right order and amount.”
The odds of creating a successful new product are one in ten to one in twenty depending on whom you ask. Optimism in the product development process is absolutely critical for success, but it is not enough to believe in the success. We need to stack the odds in our favor. Here are just five things; ones that may not be so obvious, that I have learned make a noticeable difference in increasing the odds for success in new product development.
Lose the ego. We all know when we are really good at something. To be a legitimate expert in anything requires a lot of time, effort and critical self evaluation. The problem happens when we get over confident and start to believe that we are experts in other areas outside our core competency. It is actually really easy to do.
You read a bit about a particular product development area, maybe saw someone else do it and boom, you now know what it takes and your off advising and telling others what they need to do and how to do it. Unfortunately we cannot be experts at all aspects of the product development process. We need to have team members that truly understand the areas where we are not experts.
The reason for this is that we don’t know what we don’t know. What seems easy is easy until you overlook that critical area and find yourself in a situation that is difficult to rectify. I get it, we all think that we are smart and can do many other people’s jobs, and we know better than the experts we consult. Sometimes we do; more often though we don’t.
My rule for myself is that if it is not in my core area of expertise I need to defer to someone I trust for what to do and what not to do. Especially when my ego is telling me that it is easy, I can do it, what could possibly go wrong? Having the courage to admit what we don’t know is probably one of the biggest advantages in creating a successful product. You most likely won’t know what you did wrong until it is too late. Hire the experts and listen to them.
“Having the courage to admit what we don’t know is probably one of the biggest advantages in creating a successful product.”
Know yourself, and know people. Learning all there is to know about ourselves and the motivations behind why we do what we do is a lifetime job. Learning all about others and why they do what they do might require another whole life. We can greatly improve our understanding though. Those that become aware of their motivations and what motivates others are at a real advantage in product developemnt, and in life.
They are the ones that have productive teams that are creative, communicate well and stay focused. They handle problems and deal with changes as part of the process, not as major meltdowns. Lean about how you communicate best, and learn how your team members give and receive information. Wasted time and effort happens when team members do not understand their role and how it fits in with the main program goals. Keeping team members isolated or out of the loop in order to save time usually ends up adding time as their solutions will miss critical areas to which they are not privy.
"Continually invest in your own personal development, through reading, courses, coaches and seminars and watch how much more effective your product development programs become."
Don’t work in a vacuum. Developing a product is hard, really hard. It can require massive amounts of effort just to get the product concept to work, let alone focus on all the other very different tasks that must come together perfectly in order for your product to be a success. As hard as it may seem to do during the day to day development, keep your eye on the end goal and make sure to continually consult with the experts you have assembled to keep the product on track for success.
Taking your eye off the end goal, even for a short while, can result in the product moving in a direction that may solve one issue at the detriment of an even more important one down the road. For example, you may want to add a feature that seems easy to implement but in reality it becomes much more difficult to execute and you miss critical marketing milestones.
“Taking your eye off the end goal, even for a short while, can result in the product moving in a direction that may solve one issue at the detriment of an even more important one down the road.”
Or, you may decide not to have certain features because the time to implement them will cause you to miss a milestone, but those features are absolutely crucial for your target market. Making critical decisions without the proper expertise is straight up gambling. Developing a product is difficult enough; you want to increase the odds of success, not add more risk.
"The only way to make the correct decisions is to consult the experts in each area of your team every time new information is learned and evaluate the pros and cons of each possible direction."
Don’t waste your time on the things that won’t pay you back. In hindsight it can be very easy to see where effort was wasted. That knowledge after the fact is also not very valuable to your development program. How can you know what effort is valuable and necessary and what effort isn’t? The key to avoiding wasted effort is to continually evaluate new information as it is learned and asses if that information requires a course correction. Not evaluating new information as it is learned because it’s not convenient or would require changes you don’t want to make is shortsighted. Making more, smaller course corrections is much better for the health of your development program than fewer, more drastic changes. Unfortunately, you will most likely find that out once most of your resources are used up or you are out of time.
"Evaluate new information as it is learned, consult your team of experts and decide if the new information requires a course direction adjustment. Dismissing new information as irrelevant or not important often leads to building the wrong product or a product that doesn’t function as required."
The ultimate manufactured cost of your product is determined early in the design process. All the early design decisions you make and all the features you decide to include in your product will cost you in the end. Early on in the design process there are no manufacturing ramifications to adding features to your product, picking certain materials, or even the way you design and assemble your product. The true ramifications of those early decisions will become known only once you hit the manufacturing phase. How much they will cost you really depends on a lot of factors. If you are not paying attention to the ultimate cost of the design features you implement at the beginning of the program, you may be very surprised by the cost estimates you receive once you get to the manufacturing phase.
Know that the overwhelming majority, as much as eighty percent of the ultimate cost of your product will be determined in the very first weeks and months as you design the user interface, chose the product features and pick the design direction. That means that by the time you move to manufacturing your costs will be all but fixed. There will be very little room to reduce the manufactured price of your product. Should it be more costly than is acceptable, you might find that your only option is gut your product features, drastically reduce the product quality or perform a major redesign.
"Hire manufacturing experts for each manufacturing process required to build your product and pay very close attention to the ramifications of the design decisions on your manufacturing costs by consulting your manufacturing experts early and often."
If you are in the process of developing a hardware product and you need input, please contact us at Driven Innovation. We are here to help!