“We try very genuinely to design products that solve problems. They are not about self-expression. What we are trying to do is design something that when you see it you really wonder if it’s been designed at all because it seems so obvious and so inevitable and so simple.”
Jonathan Ive, Apple at the 2006 Radical Craft Conference
Designing new and innovative products is very hard to do. All too often egos, expectations, and compromises get in the way when you design new things; sometimes the customer gets a backseat in this process. This can be true for a large firm such as Apple or a startup.
New product design is first and foremost about solving a customer’s problem. For the niche player, this requires an intimate understanding about the target market and the problem itself. Intensive market research and study is mandatory; often called concept testing, this research verifies the product definition and fit of the solution with the prospective customer.
Good product design is not about using idle labor, spare parts, or excess materials. These unused resources can be a great impetus to find a new customer problem, but the orientation is all wrong.
Worse may be the role of history in product development. In this case, the manufacturer designs new widgets because the firm has always made widgets. As the financial guys say, “past performance is not a good indicator of future success”.
Finally, ego can get in the way when the leadership team desires an image turnaround. Often new product design is pushed to create a “disruptive technology”, whether or not the market wants it or not.
The moral is simple: fix customer problems not your own.
John Bradley Jackson
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