It only took two weeks and we finally had it. We had started with a blank canvas and we now had a concept idea worthy of our client’s approval.
Did we really say “Eureka”? Not really, but maybe we should have. It was more like, “Yep, there it is. Let’s get that sent over to the client and get back to work.”
Although we had just overcome a major obstacle in the development of this product, this was just another day in the office at SGW Designworks. Generating solutions to complex problems is what we do. I admit, we probably should have stopped to celebrate our accomplishments but that is a story for another time. For now, here’s a closer look at one part of the process we use to generate creative solutions to obstacles throughout the product development process.
Addressing Product Development Challenges
When working in product development, challenges are often presented to you by the customer. They usually look something like this: “We need you to develop a product that does X, Y, and Z under these 20 constraints. This has never been done before. Oh, and you only have a week to come up with a concept solution to present to the team. Ready? Go!”
So how do we go from a never-been-done-before blank slate to a viable concept — that meets all the constraints in such a short timeframe?
Our process at SGW is both iterative and collaborative. Our team is curious, diverse, and open-minded. Curiosity leads to exploration, exploration leads to experimentation, and experimentation leads to innovation. Diversity in background and experience gives our team the opportunity to see product development challenges from multiple perspectives and aids in us generating ideas that you wouldn’t get otherwise. We are open to the ideas of others as they come from several different viewpoints and experiences.
Successful projects start with a clear scope. The opportunity needs to be well-defined with the boundaries and constraints clearly stated. It may seem counterintuitive, but boundaries and constraints promote progress — whereas not having them often stalls progress.
This project was no exception. At kick-off, the team was shown the scope of work with a narrative of what we are trying to achieve under a set of boundaries and constraints.
With this in hand, we set off to inundate ourselves with information and new material that would help us generate unique ideas. Robert Frost once said, “An idea is a feat of association.” So we filled our brains with as many things as we could to force associate and drive sparks of inspiration. We sought out similar solutions in the market, we learned about new and existing technology that may be useful, and we talked with experts.
Individually, we used our unique experiences to generate as many initial ideas or partial ideas that we could. Then we came together to share these ideas and seek feedback from each other. This is our process with most projects — and this is where the magic happens within our team.
As individuals share their initial ideas with the collective, sparks of insight ignite, and we build upon, combine, and scrutinize the ideas to meet all the requirements and constraints. More feasible raw ideas begin to take shape — which are then explored further and refined individually.
The More Perspectives, the Greater the Possibilities
After this recent session together, we stepped away from and cleared our minds of the challenge. The intent was to remove ourselves from the biases we unconsciously placed upon it. (This allows our brains to process many possibilities.) As we came back, we saw the challenge with new clarity and a fresh perspective — which drove us to new insight and more ideas. Again, we leveraged the diversity of the team by further bouncing ideas off each other and scrutinizing the details.
We ran tests on the theories and sought to validate the feasibility of our thinking through study and experimentation. Cycle after cycle, the ideas were refined until our eureka.
And there it was: a completely feasible concept, ready to be shown to our customer.
It takes real work to find unique solutions to complex product development challenges. And these solutions generally do not come to us in any sudden or singular flash of brilliance. However, with hard work, the right mindset, a proven process, and a diverse team, we have our eureka moments — and we have them often.
If you have a project that could use a little eureka, drop us a line.