Fixing Product Development

Fixing Product Development

Most organisations know their approach to developing new products, and evolving existing ones, is broken. Not in any explicit, obvious sense. More like a dull, nagging headache at the back of the corporate brain. Something seems wrong, but we can’t put out finger on it, or even be sure that something is indeed wrong.

And most organisations leave it at that. Absent an understanding of the root of the problem, so it goes, there’s not much to be done.

Ackoff would reject this. As would the positive psychology folks.

Ackoff would suggest Idealised Design as a way forward. Imagine your whole Product Development staff, know-how, processes, etc. had disappeared overnight. Actually, this is not too far from the status quo in many organisations, really. What would you go about building to replace it from scratch? Now. Today. And how could you get there, from where you are?

Well, if it were down to me, I’d probably focus on an approach to Product Development centred on meeting people’s needs. Customers, buyers, design and development people, operations folks, the whole covalent nine yards. And thence down the pyramid of Needs -> Emotions -> Value -> Flow.

You don’t see many Product Development approaches with this kind of focus on needs. Why not? I’m guessing it’s because you can’t get there from here. Even regular, nay continuous, improvement of present approaches will just end up on some very low local maximum (see chart).


For a radical, practical approach to Product Development, it’s necessary to take what we collectively know – NOT what any one company knows – and build a new golden opportunity to do it right. That is, of course, if Product Development is at all important to you.

Do you need it, sir? Do you? N-e-e-e-d it? Oh! Suits you, sir!

– Bob

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