Understand your customer
Begin with the customer. What problems are they facing? How can we help them? What is that help worth to them? Do not move onto the next stage without a very clear picture of the 'job to be done' or the customer's 'problem to solve.'
- Observe the customer and/or user. Sometimes the person making the buying decision is someone other than the person using the product or service and they have different needs — so talk to both of them. What people do and what they say they do are often different. Listen, but observe too.
- Read their social media posts.
Emile Chartier said that nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it is the only one we have.
More and different ideas are better than few and similar. Teams that feature a lot of possible players will beat a team chosen from a few players. Similarly, the concept chosen from a group of many different ideas will almost always be better than the concept developed from a single idea. Get ideas from everyone involved, even if they don't think their idea has merit.
Make the ideas you choose different from each other so all sides of a problem can be explored.
If you have an idea that came to you in a dream, you may think you are at the stage at which you should start. Please don't. Go back to the customer. Make sure the problem is really what you think it is.
This is the stage to:
- Make it better. You think it is good, but put more detail in and reassess.
- Build it to scale. Does your customer understand how big it is?
- Does it fit the hand, the head or the foot, as it should?
- Resolve contradictions such as a high-volume product with a low tooling budget, or a low-cost product with a lot of features.
- Combine two good ideas to make one great one.
Prototypes can be used as tools in each of the previous stages, but they are most widely used as a means to test the assumptions and decisions after the refinement phase. All stakeholders should be exposed as deeply as possible to prototypes at this stage. If it is a product that the user sits in, they should be able to to do that.
The goal of a prototype is to 'make it real' in whatever way works. 'Real' might mean a VR experience, painted cardboard, materials from the lumber store, a mocked-up user interface or a full-scale printed image stuck on plywood. Whatever gives the user an experience that models the final product.
As you test your prototype, ask yourself:
- How do key stakeholders feel about the mockup/prototype scale models?
- What are customers willing to pay for what you offer?
- What will this product or service replace?
- What are they willing to give up to get this?
- Has the estimated cost changed?Can it actually be manufactured as you believe?