Start Your Next Project With Discovery

Tuesday, 10 January 2017 07:32
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Because we often don't know what we don't know

Greetings! For those of us that work in new product development, I assert that we should kick off each new project with what I would describe as a discovery process. That is, we should seek to learn what has previously been done in our area of interest, as well as in related areas that may also be relevant...all before we seek to undertake any new work.

Curious to learn more? Read on, dear friends...

Start Your Next Project With Discovery As much as many of us like to think that our latest project is as original and unique as a newly fallen snowflake, if we take the time to do some research we often find that similar, relevant work has been previously undertaken.

For instance, for a project that I worked on a couple of years ago to identify potential solutions to help prevent fouling of retail coffee machine parts due to the various liquids to which they are exposed in-use, I explored surface modification work done in the context of industrial heat exchangers, as well as treatments used to prevent marine biofouling on boat surfaces. This helped me to identify relevant solutions that we probably would not have found if we had focused only on the specific current problem.

It can also be naive to think that the proper solution to a project challenge can be found by relying strictly upon similar, earlier work. There are usually nuances that we first need to understand and incorporate into our thinking. This includes digging into consumer habits and attitudes in our area of interest. It is often helpful to immerse ourselves in the subject in order to uncover insights that can build our understanding of the problem and evoke possible approaches to solving it. My wife used to love it when I started new projects while working at the Drackett Company years ago. I would spend a good deal of time rolling up my sleeves and cleaning our windows (Windex), scrubbing our toilets (Vanish) and hard surfaces (O'Cedar).

For a recent project focused on identifying potential solutions for a challenge pertaining to consumer intimate cleansing issues, I visited online discussion boards where the participants quite candidly discussed their individual challenges and shared some of the adaptive techniques that they applied to address them. At the risk of being indelicate, I learned that grossly obese individuals have some unique challenges associated with personal cleaning and also some clever strategies for dealing with them.

In summary, we should each invest time at the earliest stages of new projects to immerse ourselves in its particulars to provide ourselves with the necessary foundation to enable us to properly tackle it. It can be tempting to simply jump in and get busy doing new work, but as they say, "those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it". To this, I would add a quote from Donald Rumsfeld (of all people):

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know." True that.

"Connecting You With The Right Solutions" BFS Innovations, Inc.

Since 2005, BFS Innovations has helped its Fortune 500 clients with technology scouting, new business creation and business development services. Contact Michael today at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 614 937-2408 to discuss your company's needs.

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