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Start* Iterate Refine

Going off my l last post on improving vs. inventing I wanted to show the simple system for creation.

This isn't meant to be an all out comprehensive strategy for product creation - it's merely a way for people to see it as a less than daunting task. What I like about it is that you can build on it and adapt it to the way anyone chooses to work. I'll go into some of the theory bellow. 

START. LIKE, RIGHT NOW!

I can’t get this across enough. For some folks this is really the toughest step. A lot of people talk about great ideas and talk about how they’ll do something and create the next best thing. The sad thing is - most of that is just talk. There is nothing more important and more powerful than starting that project. Getting that idea going. It’s the first step, and it’s absolutely important. 

So you decided to start. You confidently walk into your office, sit down and get that sketchbook out in front of you. What do you do next? There isn’t really a rule. Different ways work for different people. And as I mentioned, this is meant as a loose guideline for you to get going. Here’s a quick list of what I do at the beginning of each project

  • Define why this product needs to exist.
  • Create a list of all the ideas that I've been considering and thinking about.
  • Create a list of features I’d like to see in this specific product.
  • Create a list of the closest competitors.
  • Create and define my true enemy for this product. What/who am I tackling?
  • Jot down some defined aspects of the product - is it going to be manufactured? Made by hand? What are the materials? What are the dimensions? etc.

I generally intersperse sketches and thoughts on paper as I move along that thought process. The more I dive deeper into the project, the more ideas tend to pop up and the more I need to write & sketch. 

Did I say yet that this is a fun phase? I tend to get lost in the process as my mind races. It can be invigorating. One thing to keep in mind is that at this stage - there is no wrong answer. There is no failure. And you’re more than welcome to get inspiration from every possible source. The goal is to keep those juices flowing and have some fun in the process. 

Some advice - Get all these ideas in front of you (on a wall or board) and try to live with them. At times, in a state of passion, we may fall in love with an idea that can make us blind of it’s faults. Live with your ideas. See them. Let others see them. Think about them. With time, you’ll begin to notice what needs to stay and what needs to go. This is an important process. You wan’t to curate your starting point before you begin to iterate your concept. 

With time you should arrive at a direction you’d like to pursue. Define your concept as clearly as you can, while still maintaining a sense of freedom. Things are still early, but you should be getting to a more concrete stage.

ITERATE

Here’s where you take that concept and explore and iterate it. That means you explore all the potential options for this product. Iteration is really the big secret sauce in product development. With iteration you’re able to fix as many issues as you can spot as you go through your iterations. 

It’s the perfect place to mention another important concept - get to your prototype stage as quickly as you can. This is crucial. I try to sprint to prototype and begin to iterate based on that prototype. A prototype allows you to put your product into the real world, it makes it real when you’re able to hold it and interact with it. It’s a similar approach of getting your work in front of you and living with it for a while. 

Some things and components might start bugging you the longer you’re around your prototypes and iterations. This is an absolute must. You can’t be in love with your idea. You must remain critical. If you know your audience, you need to see your product through their lens. Imagine if you’re the competitor - what would you do to improve your initial product? Do you have some ideas that will improve it already? If the answer is yes, then it’s time to iterate further and improve that product. 

Time is something to be aware of in this phase. Companies love to iterate their product internally for as long as possible - but, in the end, the product has to be delivered. Same applies here. You don’t want to be stuck in “development hell”. You have to set some boundaries for yourself on how long you plan to iterate. If you’re goal is to actually release your product in the foreseeable future, getting past iteration is important. You need to balance the right product quality and the schedule you’d like to achieve. 

REFINE

The last phase is really getting things ready for release. After iteration, you’ll need to pick a clear direction and run with it. It’s key to get feedback as you begin the Refine phase. People might offer insights and suggestions that can make the product better. It’s up to the creator to pick and choose the comments that are relevant. Let’s face it - you’re the one with the vision. 

I try to be as critical as possible at this stage. This is where the details of the product are decided. Details can make or break a product. Usability, durability come in to play in this stage.

I hope this helps those who are looking to get started. You can build on these basic rules as you begin to dive in further into the process. And don't forget - there's more than one way to create, what works for some, may not work for you. The most important part is to start and keep moving in the right direction.

DNR