Keys to Successful Product Development

Winning the Product Development Race

Seeing an idea, a twinkle in an entrepreneur’s eye become a successful product is a dream come true. From the moment of enlightenment or the aha moment when an idea is born, the natural urge to rush as quickly as possible from concept to finished product can put that great idea and potentially successful product at significant risk. Critically important steps are missed or ignored and shortcuts are taken, all with predictable results.

In the world of successful product development, a tested, well defined and faithfully executed process is the glue that holds it all together. It keeps everyone on the course and on schedule. It is the thing that enables a great idea to become a truly successful product.

The starting point for successful product development must be a foundation that carefully and clearly articulates agreed‐upon requirements. The requirements must then be followed by a logical and disciplined sequence of development phases; conceptual design, detailed design and documentation, design verification testing, pre‐production, and production.

In the following pages, we describe the Finish Line PDS product development process and share our insight into what we believe are the keys to success


Product Development Process ———— 2 


Requierements Documents —————– 3


Conceptual Design — 4

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Detailed Design — 6


Design Verification Test — 7


Pre-Production Planning — 9


Product Sucess — 12


Innovation may be necessary, but it is never sufficient.

Innovation is great. It will make your product more competitive; however, it will not “make” your product. Customers only pay for change if it is nicely packaged into a product that gets to market on time and for a reasonable price. For every 100 innovative ideas, only one is successfully brought to market. The scarcity is not in innovation but execution.

According to Fiona Patterson in her paper Characteristics & Behaviors of Innovative People in Organizations, innovative people tend to have certain personality traits:

  1. Openness to Experience: Innovative people gravitate to the unknown. They like a novel and new things and are less likely to be “campers” who are content to stay in their comfort zone. Note: This is also likely the reason that some innovative people are controversial; “novel” and “new” is akin to risk. Risk means you are more likely to fail, which opens you up to criticism, especially by those whose personalities are risk-averse. Hiring only people who have perfect records or who have no detractors is likely to exclude the truly innovative. Steve Jobs was not “liked” by most and was famously fired by a risk-averse “professional manager.”
  2. Disagreeable: Several studies conclude that the more disagreeable a person is, the higher the innovation score they are likely to have. It is probable that their “disagreeableness” allows the person to avoid groupthink, which is known to stifle innovation. Herein lies the critical lesson, some people on the team need to be innovative and others not so much. Innovators will innovate but not execute. Non‐innovators will execute but not innovate. We know that successful product development requires both.
  3. Inattentive to detail: Several studies found a negative correlation between being conscientious and detail oriented and being innovative.

Conclusion: Innovative people are not likely to be key drivers to successful execution and closure. Execution and closure require high social skills, organization, methodology, and attention to detail. These are not the personality traits of an innovator.

In his famous book Good to Great, Jim Collins argues that the first order of business is getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats. For start‐ups, understanding the need for innovators and executors and the difference between them is the key to getting the right people onto the bus and into the correct seat.