How to develop better products using a scientific mindset
All too often, those responsible for developing new products overlook the most fundamental question — “what problem does this product solve for the target audience?”
Instead, people will eagerly propose one-dimensional ideas or push forward ambiguous concepts without questioning their purpose beyond primary business objectives. The result is often a product or service out of touch with the people who will use it, or worse, a product that fails to solve the intended problem.
This inattentiveness can lead to a loss of customers, reduced efficiency, and decreased overall sales. To prevent this mishap, it is essential to clearly define problems and strategies to ensure products meet the requirements and provide the best possible user experience.
There are many standardized strategies for developing new products and services — two popular methods are Double Diamond and Design Thinking. Both approaches focus on research, ideation, prototyping, and testing to create a product that meets customer needs.
While there are similarities between these two approaches, Design Thinking is often described as more agile, user-centric, and flexible than the Double Diamond. However, the Double Diamond method is more structured, with each stage of the process clearly defined, making it easier to track progress and measure success.
Unfortunately, instead of utilizing specified methodologies, many will skip the research and define stage, push forward with ideas based on needs they believe exist, and jump straight to solution space. This strategy is excellent for inflating egos, cutting overhead costs, and pleasing investors. And at the same time terrible for creating retentive products with genuine user benefits.
It is not that businesses are opposed to defining problems — they have many defined needs, such as aggressive revenue goals, arbitrary deadlines, and grandiose growth objectives. This greed and shortsightedness produce products that predominantly serve business needs over customer satisfaction.
Whether these unilateral business actions are deliberate or not is debatable. One bold solution to highlight this blindness is to hang a poster in every conference and board room that reads: The needs of a business are not the same as the needs of the user.
It is fair to say if businesses spent less time questioning, “how will this make us money?” and more effort inquiring, “how does this solve the user’s needs?” it would lead to more innovative products and services. This dignified approach to problem-solving would also result in businesses having more satisfied customers and higher profits.
The trouble with some of the problem-solving methodologies mentioned earlier is that they are commonly used by designers. And when it comes to designers earning respect from the business world, there is room for significant improvement.
However, most people respect science — it is generally considered objective and is relied upon to solve many complex problems — from discovering vaccines and sending humans to the moon to developing artificial intelligence. Science is a remarkable tool responsible for many of humanity’s greatest advancements.
At the core of science is a problem-solving strategy many of us learned in high school — the scientific method.
The scientific method is a process of inquiry used to define problems and gain knowledge. It is a systematic approach to problem-solving that involves observation, hypothesis formation, experimentation, data analysis, and the formulation of conclusions. This method can also be applied when creating products to identify problems and develop solutions.
We can use the scientific method to observe and identify problems in existing products. By carefully examining the user experience and analyzing feedback, we can pinpoint existing product gaps that need to be addressed.
Next, we would formulate a hypothesis about the problem and develop a solution. This process begins with ideating, researching, and creating prototypes to test the theory.
Finally, we would experiment with the proposed solution. This strategy involves running tests to measure effectiveness and gathering user feedback. Analyzing data would determine whether the solution is successful and if further refinements are needed.
By using the scientific method, we can ensure that products are designed to meet user needs. And it all starts by defining the problem before entering the solution stage.
Strategies for defining problems, such as Double Dimond and Design Thinking, are not labyrinths devised to bog down business ambitions. These methodologies are inspired by the scientific method and act as an objective compass or roadmap for everyone working on a product to ensure the right questions are getting asked and the correct problems are being solved.
It is also important to remember that defining the problem is not just part of a process but also the purpose behind what we do. A clear understanding of the “why” motivates those who create, build, and sell products — which is necessary to make the best products possible.
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