Monday, February 9, 2009

Why Doesn't this Thing Work?

Because I'm a product developer, friends and relatives are always either complaining to me or trying to sell me on their breakthrough idea. Often, they just don't understand why a product or service performs so poorly, or why the right product just doesn't seem to exist. They're not alone--most consumers are disappointed with at least one product experience every day.

Often, the consumer has learned to compensate for the product's shortcomings. They may not even realize how much the interaction is bothering them--the wasted time, the less than desired outcome, the resulting feelings of powerlessness. They've become conditioned to endure the circumstances and actually have little to no expectation of an improved experience--until a new product comes along and they have a chance to encounter it. Suddenly, a mundane and tedious experience becomes pleasurable. They see the experience in a new light--they think, wow, I never knew I liked to vaccuum! They may not know how or exactly why, but from now on their expectations have been raised, and when someone asks them for a product recommendation, they passionately endorse their newfound treasure.

The consumer's transition from "using" a product to enjoying it is a sought-after, miraculous occurrence to most producers of goods. They know a good product when they see one, but they have no idea how to get there first. They desperately want to, and have of late spewed out a vast quantity of goods in their pursuit of the mysterious sweet spot. But times are changing, and it's time for producers to educate themselves.

The process of strategic development isn't a form of voodoo. It's a process, just like any other in our business environment. At the moment, there are a limited number of people with the skills and expertise to execute this process. Understanding how to combine user insights, retail insights, and the development process to create success in the market is still a relatively new science. For me, the user's needs and solutions are so painfully obvious that I'm often left thinking, surely I'm not the first person to have this idea? But more often than one might expect, I am. I didn't draft my process overnite, however--it's an accumulation of the experiences and exposures I've been fortunate to have over the last decade. Let the dissection begin.

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