We Let Partners Get Under Our Skin

If you keep sending me losers, there’s only so much I can do to stem the bleeding further down the line. Vice President, Auto Insurance Claims Adjustment (2010). Personal Communication

Recognize that even the best prototype+ from a theoretical standpoint still has a good chance of failure in practice. Hundreds of variables can torpedo a prototype, many of which only become apparent as the product moves down the commercialization+ route. For example, scaling up a chemical process to production volumes may reveal barriers (e.g., exothermic reactions, unexpected crystallization problems, trace impurities) that were insignificant at smaller scales, but now threaten the ability to manufacture the product. We need involvement of commercialization experts during prototype build to catch the obvious pitfalls, and significant involvement of the prototype team during commercialization to help get around the ones we miss.

The path from laboratory breakthrough to commercial production remains as tortuous as ever. Willems, Paul A. (2009). The Biofuels Landscape Through the Lens of Industrial Chemistry

Besides overcoming obstacles, commercialization activities can often add significant value to a prototype. Small changes in product features, unnoticeable or lightly valued by consumers, can lead to significant reductions in product cost, leading to increased sales. Or, small increments in cost can mean significant reductions in risk of product failure or fewer product safety issues. Commercialization experts tend to look at the task-at-hand through the lens of the consumer – it’s not mere functionality being purchased. It’s the overall subjective experience, from the moment of product purchase to the moment of product replacement, that sells a product or service. Prototypes address the tangible in the customer experience: commercialization constructs the intangible. Often the intangible can add the most to the profitability of a product or service.

We ensure the prototype and its supporting materials provide abundant prospects for the future. We provide many paths to success in commercialization. We have many ways to get around obstacles. Tacking and turning is the norm. We have many ways to open up new avenues in customer experience.

We don’t rob future revenue streams to make up for having limited options, or from poor execution of the options-at-hand. We want our prototype to be the first in a long line of successful progeny, that is, future revenue streams that come from add-ons, extensions, co-promotions, and other co-products that will leverage the success of our initial commercialization effort. We mean to keep future options open, and the only way we can do that is by developing a deep understanding of the prototype: one that the prototype team has already internalized.

The prototype development team wants you to develop a deep appreciation of their child. There are always some doubts whether or not a parent has done everything possible for their child and the prototype team welcomes a fresh set of eyes. Be critical. Be harsh. As long as we agree we’re looking out for the good of the child, then you have unlimited access, and my full attention as a parent. Here are but a few of the ways in which we can make this happen:

  • We work together as parents on many extracurricular activities, so we have implicit trust+ (e.g., Ties That Bind+)
  • You have access to all my child’s records, both the accolades and the reprimands (e.g., Intellectual Property Repository+)
  • I bring you in during my early parenting to form and develop this child (e.g., Franchise Benefits+)
  • I pay you for your services, so I’m both financially and emotionally invested in your success (e.g., Franchisee-In-Charge+)
  • I continue to discipline my child even after it has passed into your care (e.g., Risk Mitigation+)

The prototype build team obviously has the most intimate understanding of the child: its capabilities, limitations and fragilities. They have 2-5 years experience working with the child (and importantly, with the other children their child beat out). They know what works and what doesn’t at a very granular level of detail. They know they can’t just take this child and throw it over the transom+ to the commercialization team. They have the implicit knowledge that has never been written down. They know their child (to the extent any parent can know their child).

Commercialization is where we take the implicit and make it explicit. There is much implicit or tacit knowledge+ in the minds of the prototype team and we seek the best means for codifying that knowledge into a commercial product design. In most cases, the prototype is a crude model of the final product, accompanied by a large pile of documentation. We need to gain an understanding of the intent of the makers of that model, and the authors of those documents, and in a way that does not impede momentum. We need immediate access to those deeply involved in the original decisions, who wrote the specifications, and who really understand the discussions, arguments and boundaries of those decision. We need to get under their skin.

Home Page September 2010