Why Great Product Ideas Fail to Make it to Market and How to Avoid It

Why Great Product Ideas Fail to Make it to Market and How to Avoid It

Companies aren’t lacking when it comes to good ideas and yet many products never get to the consumer. Since the purpose of product development is to generate a positive return on investment, not getting to market seems like failure. It can be a learning tool. When you understand what goes wrong and why, changes can be made to prevent similar problems next time. Since I started Surfaceink over 20 years, we have successfully helped deliver more than $200B in products to market. Here is what we’ve learned in the process:


The Underlying Challenges


Ultimately, the reason great ideas never make it to market is due to the expectations of the executive team, those responsible for creating new projects or programs. When you examine failed launches, the expectations that are not met are often due to performance of the team: not hitting milestones, delivering poor quality or not bringing in revenue.


Ambitious ventures can hit many roadblocks along the way, including a lack of capital, bad budgeting, misunderstanding the goals, limited data, changing scope or feature creep or having bad timing in the market. Each could spell final disaster. The individual issues that arise during the process may be viewed as the root causes for failure.


They are not. Typically, it’s not that the idea was a bad one or that it couldn’t have been done, rather, it’s a failure to execute. Putting the right people in place can help you mitigate risk and successfully deliver your product ideas and concepts to market.


What Makes an Exceptional Product Design & Development Team?


Product development is risky. Pulling together a team that understands the importance of delivering a product from concept to market and executing the process successfully is vital. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing a product design and development company or team for a project.


  • Talent and Skills: Having people who know how to get things done and understand how to effectively work together is essential. A small team with a broad span of control must know how to execute.


  • Experience: Assembling the best of the best in the industry means team members have a track record of success. This allows the team to take more risks and have more confidence in predicting the schedule while anticipating possible pitfalls. Overall, an experienced team has seen a variety of issues arise in the past and knows how to address them appropriately.


  • Good Judgment and Discipline:  Team members make prudent decisions to mitigate risk and follow a successful model. They have the skills to take necessary risks on the front end so they don’t happen on the back end. Most importantly, they don’t panic when the unexpected happens because the unexpected does happen to almost every single project. It’s about having the expertise to handle each unique issue as it occurs. Also necessary is a healthy dose of humility to know when to pull in others from the network to deliver a special skill or capability.  We don’t want to reinvent the wheel or spin our wheels at critical junctures in development.


  • Vision: Simply, you must understand where you want to go and how to get there. You need to start with the end in mind, then first things first. It may sound clichéd and certainly everyone knows this on some level, however, a great team can effectively look wide and then narrow it down to a single path that everyone follows. Team members are able to see down that road and stay ahead of the curve as they navigate the marketplace. A program is made up of a million little choices that are guided by that singular vision of shipping that impactful product.


  • Adaptability: It is important to always be open to change. That said, while a great team has the ability to pivot and adapt, also applying discipline and judgment holds the customer to the intended vision. It’s possible to acknowledge requests outside of the project scope, but if the team continues to be ever changing, execution will never happen. There is a point in every program where feature creep or additional changes will need to meet a very high bar to be accepted or otherwise move them on to the next generation of the product. Get to market, get some cash flow, earn some revenue and learn so you may improve the next iteration of the product.


  • Exceptional Communication: Often it is too easy for different departments and disciplines to work in their own silos. Working together holistically allows for insight during the beginning stages of a project. When you have great communication, you discover how various disciplines interrelate and learn about possible objections early on. There is a give and take for each discipline because each is passionate about their role, but it’s important to stay grounded for a successful outcome of the overall program. The ultimate goal is to ship a product. You have to communicate, push each other and stay based in reality for optimized results. Certainly, you can argue and debate passionately, but you must respect the other team members’ disciplines and experience to allow compromise toward the best product outcome possible whether that be form, function, features, performance or aesthetic.


Making it to Market


Time to market is important and errors along the way can ultimately be very costly. Having a successful project strategy starts with a great team. When you have an experienced team that understands the process, has the discipline and knows how to communicate, it can deliver on expectations and get successful results.


Want to learn more about how to take great ideas and make them reality? Let’s talk!

  • Posted at 5:18 pm, May 22, 2018

    Let’s not forget the importance of having the design firm engage with supplier/partners that can support bot development and production!

  • Chuck Longanecker
    Posted at 5:41 pm, May 22, 2018

    Great blog Eric. You hit all the right points. Keep up the good work

  • Posted at 2:43 am, May 23, 2018

    Thanks, Eric, very good insights and very helpful for both established companies and Startups. I really like it.
    Another point we have seen, that is, wrong assumptions on suppliers’ deliverables and too much dependancy on contract manufacturers are the very big reason for failure as well.

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Eric Bauswell

Founder and CEO

Eric began his career designing tractor mowers for Textron before landing in Silicon Valley where he was motivated by the challenge of fast-paced and industry leading design at Apple. As surfaceink grew, Eric expanded surfaceink to develop products for Palm, Flextronics, and Dell to name a few. He continues to be motivated by the creative challenges from Fortune 100 companies and emerging high-tech startups.


Chris Whittall

Director of Industrial Design

Chris works to ensure that client goals are realized through attractive and innovative design solutions. With over 20 years of experience as an industrial designer, Chris enjoys transforming complex technical challenges into beautiful and intuitive product solutions that deliver solid business results. Before joining surfaceink, Chris worked at Speck Design, Whipsaw, HP, Montgomery Pfeifer and GVO. Chris holds 45 U.S. design patents, and his work has been recognized by IDEA, Red Dot, Spark, IF, Chicago Athenaeum and Popular Mechanics.


Geoff Chatterton

Vice President of Software Engineering

Geoff is surfaceink’s VP of Software, and he loves seeing his award-winning products, including an Emmy and three times Best of CES, in the hands of millions of people around the world. With a focus on creating cutting-edge consumer experiences, his career has spanned 20 years across a mix of successful startups and top tier established companies including Apple, Dell, and PayPal. A recognized industry innovator, Geoff earned his undergraduate degree from MIT and has over 80 patents issued or pending.