“How do we start?” Does that question scare you? Do you have a good answer? Do you dive right in and hope good things happen?
Do you know how or why the product development projects in your pipeline got started? What was the opportunity they are meant to meet? What part of your mission are they supposed to help you accomplish?
Before a company does something new, creates a product or service, there are several things they should consider.
Companies frequently don’t. They dive right into developing something great. I respect their enthusiasm for doing. Doing is better than not doing.
Too often, product development happens in a vacuum. Someone inside of a company has what they think is a great idea. They are able to convince someone with a budget that this technology or idea is amazing and new. Often, that is enough to get a company excited about a new effort.
Excitement is great, but all the excitement of a great new project—even if it is delivered on time and under budget—is wasted is you aren’t making the right thing.
Worse still are the zombie projects. Those efforts that start with good intentions, but never finish because they don’t fit or aren’t quite ready. Nobody wants to terminate them because they have potential—resource eating, time wasting potential.
We talk a lot about making sure that you are creating an offering that meets a need for your customer. That is extremely important. In our world that is a part of the product development process. It is understood and if you skip it, well, you’re just guessing.
Even before you try to understand the customer, there is a larger context to be considered. We are suggesting that you consciously examine these issues and talk about them in your team, so that you have the proper knowledge and perspective as you start to do the research and experimentation that will lead to the development of a great new offering.
If you prepare before you dive in, you will be able to make better decisions about what is good innovation and what is not and develop a better sense for how to make that distinction. Killing zombie projects will be easier if you describe why they are a bad fit, or create urgency around the opportunity they are meant to satisfy.
To be able to do that you should have a frame of reference. A filter. Seeking the best innovation is good. Hunting down the offering that the customer really wants or need, that you are uniquely suited to deliver, is better.
To do that, you have to first understand yourself and your company. We’ll focus specifically on that next time. For now, consider that if you are not sure what you company wants to be when it grows, you are going to have a hard time knowing what you should be doing to get there.
There are plenty of great product and service possibilities that will not be a good fit for your company. If you pursue them, you will find out the hard way when someone else comes along and does them much better.
After we talk about you, we will turn our discussion to the world. You can create opportunities or get run over by changes in the economy, society, laws, regulations, competition, tastes and trends; depending on what you do about them.
We will also consider what you are already doing. No innovating in a vacuum. If you already make things or provide services, they should always be a part of your start.
Working out these things first will help you answer the “How do I start?“ question. You can aim for new markets and concepts that make sense for you and your company, instead of asking, “Who’s got an idea?”