Everyone wants to get it right the first time, and product developers are no different. While careful planning needs to go into any product development endeavor, product development — especially when the product is intended to be genuinely innovative — is a predictably unpredictable affair. Although every product goes through predetermined phases, including conception, prototyping, design, engineering, manufacturing, and distribution, new insights almost always emerge from the development process itself that can’t be seen before the fact.
This is why it’s essential to work with a product development partner that understands that an insistence on getting it right the first time can introduce more problems than it solves. To implement the learnings that the various phases of product development reveal, your partner needs to have an “innovation mindset,” flexible processes, and agile operations.
At Pivot International, we are the proven partner behind some of the world’s most innovative and award-winning products. We bring nearly a half-century of product development expertise that spans fourteen industries and manufacturing capability across three continents, including cost-effective alternatives to China-based production. Our one-source model ensures a highly integrative and agile product development process. Because we own our facilities and take a highly collaborative approach to working with clients, we deliver unparalleled levels of transparency.
The dangers of insisting on getting it right the first time are many. Let’s take an in-depth look at why this is, as well as how to avoid these hazards.
Overly strict gatekeeping processes can backfire
In an attempt to avoid making mistakes, strict gatekeeping processes are often implemented. Work on the next stage of product development cannot begin until the project passes through the gate preceding it.
The problem with this is that the process can not be seen holistically, and feedback cannot inform the process on time. As the project progresses through each gate, significant investments are made without regard for learnings that may have emerged along the way.
When the project passes through the last gate and learning is finally applied, problems are unearthed that could have been prevented earlier in the process but have now become exponentially more expensive to solve. Robust front-end practices that prevent this problem are critical to design and deploy.
Demanding early success can lock you in the box you’re trying to think outside of
Demanding success from the beginning narrows the conceptual playing field because it tends to make teams think too small and play it too safe. It’s easy to get it right the first time when you focus only on low-risk, “tried and true” solutions. But this approach is the enemy of innovation.
Tolerance for early failures at each point of the product development process can be a highly successful strategy as long as each round of learning is iteratively applied and tested. Teams that take an iterative approach and conduct early and frequent tests make more errors along the way. However, thanks to low-cost prototyping technologies, they outperform teams blindly committed to getting it right the first time because they quickly eliminate bad ideas or designs and move on to more desirable solutions.
Poor results at the early stages of each product development process are better understood not as failures but as valuable discoveries for moving the process successfully forward before extensive resources have been committed. At Pivot, our rapid-prototyping technologies give our customers the freedom and flexibility to affordably iterate and test at any point in the product development process.
Taking on the cultural challenge
It’s not only individuals who can fall prey to the temptation to get it right the first time, but also entire organizational cultures. In these cultures, the mere appearance of failure can threaten a team member’s self-esteem and their job, especially if it exposes knowledge or skills-gaps in the organization.
It is the job of company leaders to set the tone for their organization and lead by example, not only by tolerating failure but by actively encouraging it when it’s in the service of innovation. Leaders who can draw connections between apparent failures and consequent growth will go far in fostering a culture where “strategic failure” becomes a badge of honor rather than a source of embarrassment or anxiety.
Overcoming the temptation to get it right the first time might be considered a core-competency of product development teams, and companies of all kinds, for that matter. The ability to use the product development process itself to generate new insights and iteratively implement and test them is part and parcel of innovation. If you’re looking to bring an innovative product to market, we’d love the chance to explore how a collaborative partnership with Pivot can help you meet your business objectives and make your mark. Contact us today.