What is the problem that is being solved?
Who needs this problem to be solved?
That’s it. Now I know I cut to the chase relatively quickly, and you may be thinking, “What and Who, that has nothing to do with how the product will work. Isn’t product development about building stuff?”
Wrong. Product development is all about fixing a problem in someone’s life. Product development is not about creating the coolest gadget you can think of. It’s not about gimics and features. In fact, you may think of a cool idea for a product, and end up creating something completely opposite of what you were initially intending.
What is the problem?
If you do not have a clear grasp on what the problem is, you have no business thinking about how the product will work. Products are designed to optimize basic inefficiencies in life. Anywhere from how to change a light bulb faster to the most efficient way of transporting yourself to a specific location. You must first understand what inefficiency you are attacking before you can understand how to fix it. Initially, there is an element of product design that leverages the possibility of anything on this earth contributing to the solution to that problem.
Being open and thinking with out of the box solutions often leads to the most revolutionary ideas. Think about the development of the 3D printer. Was the 3D printer solely developed to print cool plastic figurines? Absolutely not. The 3D printer was developed to be the “Anti-Machining” technique.
(For those of you less versed in metal fabrication, all parts are traditionally machined by starting with a large stock piece of material and removing material until the desired feature is created. Anti-machining refers to building material rather than removing it).
The truth is there will always be some features in manufacturing that are impossible to make by only removing material. In material removing applications, internal features and cavities are only created by machining a concept into two parts and bolting them together. And this is how almost everything is machined. Think about your car engine with the block and cylinder head. It’s the only way for the CNC’s to machine the internal cavities required for the intake/outtake valve assemblies.
But someone one day said, “There has to be another way to build internal structures without building two parts”. Their motivation would likely be created from the undesirability of the potential failure point between the mated pieces.
That was the day that an entrepreneur identified a real problem in the manufacturing sector. They identified that internal structures are hard, if not impossible, to manufacture with traditional machining techniques.
Who is the customer?
So you’ve identified that there is an inefficiency in human’s lives that needs to be solved, why can’t we start thinking about how we can fix that specific problem?
Because you need to understand who will need a solution in order to benefit from the increased efficiency in life. What is the typical income of a person who needs to solve this problem? Where do they encounter this problem? How often do they encounter it? What is the likelihood of the problem occurring? What are the implications if the problem does occur?
Understanding how the potential customer will benefit from solving the specific problem is paramount to success in product driven businesses. You need to make sure you know that your product will be a no-brainer buy for the customer. So that means, you should only ever pursue a product that turns on the customer’s cleverness light-bulb.
The customers you will be pursuing need to understand your product almost immediately. And the only way to truly build a product that customers will understand, is to understand exactly who will need to use the product you develop.
Additionally, you need to develop a product that provides more life value to the consumer than the cost it takes for you to make it. You may have the best idea for someone to automate their morning routine, but if the cost to build the machine is worth more than the 5 minutes of time saved for the potential customer, then it’s not even worth the time to think about how such a machine would work. Understanding what a customer is willing to pay for a problem to be solved is imperative for positive cash flows.
I’ve got the problem and target market identified, now what?
Great. Now you may finally begin coming up with the HOW.
How a product will work is a very lengthy process and usually turns into a collection of ideas weighed against each other. This is usually handled with a design decision matrix, which I will talk about in a later blog post. But the moral of the story is that you want to have a clear definition of the problem and the customer to allow your brain to think far enough outside of the box that creates a product that your target market will purchase.
By thinking far outside of the box, you may realize the real solution to the problem is far more efficient in a way you initially overlooked.
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