One could argue that Conceptual Design (CD) is the most important phase of product development as it determines 90% of the market success of the product (see)
Here are 5 tips to help you improve your Conceptual Design process:
Tip #1: Use a large and diverse team: It’s no secret that the more diverse the team is, the more innovative it will be. In this case, diversity means people from different backgrounds — education/specialization, industry, work history, etc. And it is not all about technology and engineering. Consider including people from marketing, sales, production and even customer service.
Conceptual design is about making choices for your target market. Understanding what the choices are, technology/engineering, and what is the right choice, marketing/sales, is enhanced with more voices in the room.
Reach out to different service providers to enhance the team if your team is not very large.
Tip #2: Follow a Good Brainstorming Process: Brainstorming is a collaborative group effort. Plenty of research shows that groups will be more innovative than individuals working in isolation — but only if they follow a certain process. There are plenty of blogs and whitepapers on how to do it right. Just google “how to hold a brainstorming meeting”.
Tip #3: Rank and Score: Rank each defining requirement. A defining requirement is a requirement where exceeding the minimum requirement would give the product a competitive advantage. COGS is a defining requirement — all other things being equal, a lower COGS makes for a more competitive product. FCC compliance is not a defining requirement as it does not matter how much better the product exceeds the FCC minimums.
Score each concept developed against each defining requirement. Then multiply the rank by the score and add them up (see our CD template for a visual on what this looks like).
It is not so much about the largest score winning as it is in seeing how the different concepts play out against all the requirements and getting to a consensus on how important each requirement is. Otherwise, it is very hard to talk about which one is the “best”.
Tip #4: Vet with Ideal Customer: It is always a good idea to review the CD with a customer(s) or surrogate customer. Sometimes this brings out requirements that just were not visible in the initial requirements generation. If a customer likes the CD, ask why, and if they do not, try to understand what requirement it does not satisfy.
Tip #5: Do a Requirements Analysis: Before moving on to the Detail Design phase, do not forget the important step of doing a requirements analysis. See (link to N73) for more information.