The design of new products is a very intensive field. The people involved in these complex projects must have a laser focus that excludes most of what’s going on around them. As a result, they often work in a sort of communication vacuum, coming up with their own systems that are unique to a very limited product or group of products. The esoteric nature of their work helps them to be very efficient inside the four walls of their firm, but they can have serious problems interacting with other projects and companies.
This is where they could be missing the boat. While it’s great that their internal focus is helping them churn out great products, there are other opportunities being missed because of it.
Often lost in translation? Time to avoid that…for good!
Striking a balance between these two worlds requires two major components: Quality equipment for design and assembly, and people on staff who can navigate multiple groups of engineers, communicating with all of them. When those two elements come together, the resulting innovation and creativity can really launch a firm to the next level.
The equipment side helps the designs interact even when the people can’t. Projects completed with an industrial panel PC will be robust enough to match up with each other in drafting and design, facilitating networking that moves quickly and effectively as ideas are shared.
Somewhere in the mix, you also need people who can bridge the two sides. People with appropriate training can help create that synergy by accelerating the process of translating from one group to another. It is critical that these intermediate workers have credibility with design teams in addition to technical skills.
So what are the good things that can result from these partnerships? There are several major areas.
Some of the most amazing applications for products have been developed not by R&D but by the final consumers. For a simple example, look at duct tape. Designed to do just what the name says–seal joints in heating and cooling ducts–the product got into the hands of people outside that field, who found it very well suited for a nearly endless array of jobs.
The same can be true of any product. Consumers tinker and create new product uses, using items with other products to create solutions for problems not otherwise solved.
When these epiphanies are experienced, the creator of the original product has a golden opportunity to broaden the company’s user base. The design teams need to be able to work with other products to create complementary properties that will make a great outcome for both.
Sometimes it’s not the consumer who finds these opportunities. The bridge person, the liaison between industries, can often be the one who sees the opportunity. As we noted earlier, design teams are internally focused. They can’t be successful creating their products if they are forever distracted by every other product on the market.
But intermediaries can. They aren’t so close to the product’s heart that they can’t risk distraction, so all the while two teams are working independently, an intermediary can be envisioning how the products might end up working together someday, guiding both processes to help facilitate that ultimate achievement.
The final benefit of having this sort of drifting, skilled observer on staff is the opportunity to let him or her think a few steps ahead of the team. When a skilled observer sees the direction of a product and notices the opportunity to broaden its appeal or utility, he or she can communicate that to the design staff and help guide them closer to a more broad-based opportunity. The important things involved in this process are having skilled personnel and fostering a creative environment.
For the right worker, there are many opportunities to step in and steer design and development processes, creating better products with a bigger impact. But while doing this, they should make sure that they do not lose touch of what’s really important at the moment by getting lost in translation in the process.
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