For the benefit of readers who have not been privy to the following Email exchange, we should explain how it arose. In an Email to several friends, Joe Marasco wrote that a John Walker had expressed some interesting thoughts in the following piece at: http://www.fourmilab.ch/autofile/www/chapter2_108.html.
In particular this extract:
"After reviewing a number of business plans and product proposals in 1993, all of which envisioned a totally planned-from-the-start design and development process, I wrote the following piece - ..."
Joe added, "Involving customers is very hard to predict. I have pointed out to him [John Walker] that iterative development tries to embrace many of his ideas, without putting vast numbers of customers through the pain of early, perhaps half-baked, releases. At any rate, I think this is a piece we should all read every five years or so, as we believe we are getting closer and closer to a perfect design methodology."
To which I replied:
"Joe, unless I missed it, I think that a point that John Walker misses in the piece you referred to is that while feedback is essential and two way (i.e. to and from), there is also the opportunity for reverse feedback (i.e. from and to)."
The first is represented by "Here's my gizmo what do you think of it". The second says "Show me your gizmo because I might be able to use it, or market it, in a new and different way." (A screwdriver is an excellent device for getting lids off paint tins. It might be an interesting statistic to learn what percentage of sales of screwdrivers is attributable to their use as a lever!) The most profitable source of new products is not original research, but the marrying of two, or more, existing technologies to satisfy a new application.
1. Site accessed 3/25/05.