Guerilla Product Development

March 15, 2017

Tips For Engaging in Product Development with Limited Resources

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You will likely need to seek professional advice in several areas, but if you are absolutely clueless when you seek this advice you are leaving yourself open to being taken advantage of. Learn as much as you can about as many areas as you can concerning your product, and you will have intelligent conversations with those you are seeking advice from. 

Some (not all) professionals will take advantage of your enthusiasm for your new product, and sell you expensive products or services that may not be in the best interests of achieving your goals. Others may unintentionally lead you astray, not fully appreciating your limited resources or specific needs. Others, are highly experienced, capable and ethical and will give you excellent advice.  

It is your job to distinguish between them. You don't need to know everything, but you do need a grasp of the subject matter and more importantly, good judgment. 


Don't Rush 

We all want to get things done quickly, but setting yourself unrealistic or arbitrary deadlines is a good way to force stupid mistakes. Unless you do this for a living you are on a very steep learning curve, and it can take time for your ideas to ferment and mature – even if you think it is ready to go. Many aspects of bringing a design to market can take much longer than initially thought. At the end of the day, it will take as long as it takes, and you will only know this in hindsight. So take a deep breath, relax and give yourself time to make the right decisions.     


Don't be an Island 

Get out of the house or office and meet other people. You will get a much better understanding of the relevant industry, and you might be surprised at the incredible contacts you can make and what you can learn from them. You don't have all the answers and you will need input from other people, so it's best to start building relationships early. Product promotional events are good opportunities to meet like-minded people, as are talks, short courses, and shared workspaces. 


Test Your Assumptions 

Talk to lots of people to get feedback. Talk about the problem that you have identified and the benefits that your product will offer (avoid talking about how your product will solve the problem if you want to protect IP). Also, test assumptions about methods, products and processes and people that you are going to rely on. Ask for samples, try things out, see it in action. Be as sure as you can before handing over money. When it comes to selling, make a prototype and see if you can sell it to someone (even if it's sub-standard). Play devils advocate and be your own biggest critic, then prove yourself wrong.   


Prepare for Turbulence 

Don't get too attached to your first business plan or concept drawing, or the next, or the next, or the one after that. It is important to keep planning even though you keep discarding them a few weeks, or a few days later. Product development is an iterative process even for the seasoned designer, but even more so for the individual or small business who is new to product development.  

It turns out that the process has more in common to flying a light aircraft than hitting a golf ball. It involves keeping your eye on where you want to get to but being a little flexible about exactly how or when you get there - you may need to adjust for changing winds or bad weather. 

You are on a very steep learning curve and will need to respond to new information as it becomes available, including your own research and ideas. Look for other ways if you run into a brick wall, and find better solutions if you're not happy with the ones you have. Allow for setbacks, failures, and revisions of your product or idea. Just make sure you run out of problems before you run out of solutions.

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