Developing Innovative Products

Phase 0: Feasibility Analysis

The goal of this phase is to identify existing technology to achieve the intended high-level function. If technology can be purchased as opposed to developed, the scope of subsequent development phases changes.

Simply put, product development companies research and assess the probability that the current technology can be used to reach the intended functionality of the product. By doing this, the development efforts are reduced, which in financial terms represent a great reduction in development costs.

Moreover, if the technology is not yet available, then the assessment can result in longer development cycles and the focus moves into creating the new technology (if humanly possible) that can accomplish the functionality of the product.

This is an important part of the in any product development process because it is safer and financially responsible to understand the constraints that a product can have prior to starting a full development cycle. A feasibility study can cost between 7 -15 thousand dollars. It might be sound very expensive for some, but when it is much better than investing $100k+ to end up with a product that no manufacturer is able to produce.

Phase 1: Specification or PRD (Product Requirements Document) development

If your product is feasible, congratulations! you are a step closer to creating your product and you can move into documenting what is going to go into the product itself, aka the guts (product objective, core components, intended end-user, aesthetics, User interphase, etc).

In this phase, product design and engineering focus on documenting the critical functionality, constraints, and inputs to the design. This is a critical step to keep development focused, identify the high-risk areas, and ensure that scope creep is minimized later.

This document will help you communicate the key features of your product and how they are supposed to work to all members of your team. This will ensure that you keep everyone involved on the same page.

Without one, you are more likely to stay off track and miss deadlines. think about the PRD as your project management breakdown structure (BDS)

Phase 2: Concept Development

Initial shape development work identifies options for form, as well as possible approaches for complex mechanical engineering challenges. Initial flowchart of software/firmware also happens here, as well as concept design level user interface work. Aesthetic prototypes may be included in this Phase, if appropriate. Prototype in this phase will not typically be functional.

Phase 3: Initial Design and Engineering

Based on decisions made at the end a concept development phase, actual product design and engineering programming can start. In this phase, Level 1 prototypes are often used to test approaches to technical challenges.

Phase 4: Design Iteration

This part of the project is where we focus on rapid cycles, quickly developing designs and prototypes, as the depth of engineering work increases. This phase can include Level 2 and 3 prototypes, typically through multiple cycles. Some products require as many as twenty prototype cycles in this phase. Others may only require two or three.

Phase 5: Design Finalization / Optimization

With all assumptions tested and validated, the design can be finalized and then optimized for production. To properly optimize for production, product design and engineering teams take into account the target production volumes, as well as the requirements of the manufacturer. Regulatory work may start in this phase.

Phase 6: Manufacturing Start and Support

Before production starts, tooling is produced, and initial units are inspected. Final changes are negotiated with the manufacturer. Regulatory work also should wrap up in this phase.

Brainstorming and Innovation – Not Really Working Anymore

Well, I have a pretty large personal library with more than 3 dozen books on innovation. It’s amazing how they all read about the same and all have nearly the same advice, especially when it comes to the ‘art of brainstorming’. Still, due to all the new social norms being taught in college these days, where every question asked of a professor, no matter how stupid, is met with; “Great question,” and then followed by the nauseating improper English; “okay so… ” followed by a regurgitated answer – it’s causing the same nonsense in brainstorming sessions.

The only chance today of a brainstorming session coming up with a brilliant original solution would be to have someone in the group who is already a creative genius who can speak up, defend their concept against politically correct and status quo bias and personally persuade the group to yield to their idea. Still, this type of person is a true ‘Thought Leader’ and a legitimate thought leader hardly needs a brainstorming group or any group for that matter in the first place.

Brainstorming isn’t working anymore for innovation, and you can get better creativity from a YouTube Cat Video these days. Corporate R&D Departments aren’t producing much either considering the huge sums of money they spend on the innovative process. Those who predict the future so they can see into the looking glass aren’t much better using their methodologies.

Innovation for the Future and Future Prediction

Let’s take the Futurists of the World Future Society (WFS) as an interesting case study. The WFS has seminars to teach you how to think like a Futurist, symposiums with special emphasis on trend projections and innovation. Isn’t it interesting how all the members of the WFS are always on the same page, and how their predictions are nearly always incorrect (90% of the time)? Why is this? Maybe it’s because when you teach people to think a certain way, they lose the creative edge or ability to do high-level original thought, as you are confine their thought process to logical thinkin?g (left brain thinking) when the students who wish to focus on innovation need to be both left and right brain thinkers.

How are we going to get back to an America that is robust in original thinking and overflowing with new ideas – a nation that is so innovative that we can’t even hold back the rapid changes of our society and civilization? How can we lead the world into the future if we can’t even innovate our way out of plastic bags? Please consider all this and think on it.