In an article that appeared in the Entrepreneurship magazine late last year, I made the statement that designers, entrepreneurs and innovators should beware of getting married to their product ideas. What do I mean by that?

Over its history of more than 40 years, the Design Institute has seen its fair share of entrepreneurs who failed because they got married to their product ideas and could not let go, once they did not prove viable.

A bright idea lies at the root of any new product development. This idea should then be screened for viability and it is at this point where many entrepreneurs make the fatal mistake of getting married to their idea, trying to force it to work against all odds. I want to emphasise that when innovators bring their ideas to the Design Institute we take them through a process of idea screening that covers aspects such as necessity, competitiveness, profitability and viability. We look at the design aspects of the new product or service idea and coach the innovator to do a business analysis. Once these steps have been concluded and it has been established that the idea is viable, the Design Institute will continue to support innovators in a variety of ways like offering design know-how as well as linking them with support and funding structures in the public and private sectors.

It is important to let customer wants and needs drive new product or service development. Establishing these wants and needs calls for research, investigation and trails. We can only truly achieve this by observing human experiences, analyzing challenges and opportunities and then envisioning future possibilities. A human-centered design approach is followed – LOOK – UNDERSTAND – MAKE. It is a critical error to continue on the path of product or service development without adequate market research, overlooking the threat of competition or attempting over-ambitious projects, both in terms of cost, time or difficulty.

I maintain that it is more important to use your unviable idea as a springboard for the next idea that might work much better. It is sensible to move on to something new and take the lessons you have learnt with you into the new venture, rather than clinging to an idea that will not make it to market. We believe that ideas are the building blocks of prosperity, economy and community, but these ideas need to work to make a difference.

Carine de Swardt, Studio Manager of the Design Institute