Ok, right off the top I’ll point out that the title of this week’s blog is supposed to be funny. In my experience, there is nothing easy about product development.
Where I work, we have a very long history of developing products to meet the needs of customers. In the earliest days, my father would invent a product at the request of any customer. “Need an industrial strength grease remover? No problem. You can pick it up on Monday.” At which point dear old Dad would call up his chemical supply contacts and after some long hours in the lab and factory floor, a meta-silicate solution would be sitting in buckets by the door Monday morning. That’s the kind of nimble innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that paid for my braces growing up. Today we do things quite differently but that spirit of innovation and entrepreneurialism is still there, even if we tend to be less nimble.
The first step in the product development process can sometimes be the most difficult. Step one is where you come up with the new product idea. Coming up with ideas sounds easy. In fact, you might find that everyone around you has what they think is a great idea for a new product. But you’ll probably find the idea has already been tried, isn’t practical or for one reason or another is just not that great of an idea after all.
Just like my father found many years ago, I’ve learned the best product ideas come from my customers. A customer expresses a need for a product that will do this or that. If you can come up with something that fills that need, you’ve probably got a winner. Recently, I had a customer that expressed such a need. The customer was a major hydroelectric power utility that owned a large number of aging and deteriorating concrete structures. The structures were getting to point of possibly needing replacement, but with the way the economy has been, they wanted to repair the structures instead. We developed a line of concrete restoration and protection products to meet their request – realizing they were not alone in their need. That new product line is actually being launched by Kryton today. Discovering an unfulfilled need and developing a solution is really the key to success when creating a new product.
For a really great and inspiring video on developing your product idea, have a look at ABC Nightline’s The Deep Dive.
Step two in the product development process is creating the business case, which I’ll talk more about next time. As always, your comments are encouraged.