Developing a product is when the rubber meets the road, when theory meets practice, when ideas become real. While it would be impossible for any one article to give a blow-by-blow list of specific steps for making every kind of product imaginable, there are some definite principles that can and should be followed. Doing so ensures that your product development efforts result in something far more likely to succeed on the open marketplace.
With that being said, let’s dive in!
Do not get overly attached to your original conception.
Some inventors make the mistake of worshiping their original idea for what the product will look like when it is done. Many do this because they are afraid of becoming like entrepreneurs on the other extreme of the product development spectrum: those who never make any progress because they keep junking the product and starting from scratch. In fact, both of these approaches are wrong. The key to successful product development is to hold true to your idea without being so rigid that you refuse to make rational changes.
For example, let us say you are developing a new kind of water filtration system that is going to put the existing models to shame with its never-before-seen, super-accurate and top-secret filtration technology. In conceiving this new filter, you have decided to make it as an add-on to the sink faucet. That is, it will attach to the faucet and automatically filter water when someone turns it on. But let’s say you come across a questionnaire or focus group. It says that faucet filter sales have been in decline for two years. However, it shows consumers are quire enthusiastic about pitchers that will filter the water they pour into it.
If you are a smart product developer, you will strongly consider adapting your incredible new technology to this method. Refusing to acknowledge this trend and make anything other than what you originally thought of is the kind of stubbornness that kills otherwise great products. Do not let that become your story!
Set realistic deadlines for yourself and adhere to them.
Without deadlines, product development can devolve into endless “do-overs” and “back to the drawing board” sessions that become little more than a sinkhole of wasted time. Of course, a certain amount of mistake and retries are to be expected when developing a product. Trying to eliminate all of them would be impossible. Instead, the goal is to set reasonable deadlines for yourself.
If you are vexed by a particular problem, give yourself a set amount of time to solve it before moving on to the next issue. If you cannot resolve the problem in that amount of time, make a judgment call. Will a few more days suffice? Or is this something you should put on the back burner while you satisfy other pressing demands of developing the product? Prioritizing is key, and learning to do so will be an incalculable benefit to you. It will give your progress a sense of physical reality and keep you anchored to a plan.
Of course, your ultimate deadline should be one for completion: when do you hope to have the product developed by? Impose a deadline on yourself even if there isn’t one. The sooner your product is developed, the faster you can get it to market and begin reaping the fruits of your labor.
Get feedback from those outside your family and friends.
As you develop the product, show it to people at various stages. Collect feedback from them on what they like, what they do not like, and what they would like to see instead. Many inventors forgo this valuable feedback loop because they fear that sense of rejection. No one likes to hear that what they have worked on for months might not be so great after all.
So rather than seek the cleansing of truth, many inventors simply hypothesize to themselves about what people would think about the product. This is completely insufficient. Instead, your goal should be exposing your product to as much critical scrutiny as possible. This means to look outside your family and friends. While they are often concerned first and foremost with not hurting your feelings, outsiders will often be quite blunt about what you should do differently. Far from being a bad thing, this is actually invaluable.
If you show your product at various stages to say 20 people, and 14 of them make the same suggestion that you never thought of, that is an enormous help. You can be reasonably sure that this suggestion is something the people in your market would want as well.
To develop a product, you need to walk the tightrope of maintaining your vision while also respecting reality. By keeping an active mind, you will only strengthen your product and increase its chances for success.
Eric Corl is the Founder and CEO of IdeaBuyer.com, a marketplace for new technology and products that gives inventors the opportunity to showcase their intellectual property to consumer product companies, entrepreneurs, retailers, and manufacturers. You can email him at EricCorl@IdeaBuyer.com.