The truth about “any color so long as it is black”

Henry Ford (1863-1947) documented that he made the “any color so long as it is black” comment during a meeting in 1909 (Henry Ford in collaboration with Samuel Crowther in My Life and Work. 1922. Page 72).

My Life and Work by Henry Ford in collaboration with Samuel Crowther. 1922

My Life and Work by Henry Ford in collaboration with Samuel Crowther. 1922.

Henry Ford had a different perspective than the salesmen attending the meeting.

This season demonstrated conclusively to me that it was time to put the new policy in force. The salesmen, before I had announced the policy, were spurred by the great sales to think that even greater sales might be had if only we had more models. It is strange how, just as soon as an article becomes successful, somebody starts to think that it would be more successful if only it were different. There is a tendency to keep monkeying with styles and to spoil a good thing by changing it. The salesmen were insistent on increasing the line. They listened to the 5 percent, the special customers who could say what they wanted, and forgot all about the 95 percent, who just bought without making any fuss. No business can improve unless it pays the closest possible attention to complaints and suggestions. If there is any defect in service then that must be instantly and rigorously investigated, but when the suggestion is only as to style, one has to make sure whether it is not merely a personal whim that is being voiced. Salesmen always want to cater to whims instead of acquiring sufficient knowledge of their product to be able to explain to the customer with the whim that what they have will satisfy his every requirement – that is, of course, provided what they have does satisfy these requirements.” (Ford. Page 71)

The first Model T left the factory  in September of 1908. In the 1909 fiscal year, 10,660 units were produced. Ford considered that their offering was good enough. The Model T had product-market fit.

In the language common to product development, the Model T was a platform product. Over the next 18 years, there were numerous body styles that included 2-door and 4-door touring, roadsters, town cars, pickups, and sedans.

Platform Product: The design and components that are shared by a set of products in a product family. From this platform, numerous derivative products can be designed. [Definition from the PDMA glossary]

Henry Ford provided his vision for the Model T:

I will build a motor car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.” (Ford. Page 73)

The Model T was designed by Henry Ford, Childe Harolde Wills, József Galamb, and Eugene Farkas.

In 1909, Henry Ford had a vision to scale production. He believed the the Model T platform was the best strategy to produce an affordable car for the world.

Therefore in 1909 I announced one morning, without any previous warning, that in the future we were going to build only one model, that the model was going to “Model T,” and that the chassis would be exactly the same for all cars, and I remarked:

Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.’

I cannot say that any one agreed with me. The selling people could not of course see the advantages that a single model would bring about in production. More than that, they did not particularly care.” (Ford. Page 72)

Fortunately, there is production data for 18 years. Production went from thousands per year in 1909 to millions per year.

Ford Model T Production 1909-1927

Ford Model T production numbers derived from http://www.mtfca.com/encyclo/fdprod.htm
Worldwide production except for Canada.
Model T production ended 25 May 1927. 15 million were produced.
The 1920.5 data discontinuity reflects the transition from a fiscal year to a calendar year.
The Model A was launched at the end of the 1927.

Development Experience

Because the Model T chassis that did not change much in 18 years, the designers could devote more effort to the passenger related parameters.

Henry Ford’s resolve set the focus and direction of the project. He was not detracted by the reports from the salesmen. He monitored development to minimize unvalidated additions to the product backlog which is also known as product feature creep.

Feature Creep: The tendency for designers or engineers to add more capability, functions and features to a product as development proceeds than were originally intended. These additions frequently cause schedule slip, development cost increases, and product cost increases. [Definition from the PDMA glossary]

Any Color So Long As It Is Black

Ford’s first prototypes and production models were designated by the letters A to T. They came in many colors. For example:

  • The original Model A 1903-1904 was sold ‘only in red by the factory.’
  • The Model F was ‘rich dark green, yellow running gear’
  • The Model K was ‘Royal Blue’
  • The Model R was red
  • 15 million Model Ts were produced by 1927. This car is green with black trim (fenders and running boards).
The Fifteen Millionth Ford Model T

The Fifteen Millionth Ford Model T. Henry Ford is the passenger in the front seat.

In late 1927, Henry Ford had the replacement for the Model T. The new Model A was produced from 1927-1931. Nearly 5 million were produced.

Success

Henry Ford’s resolve was consistent with the comment he made in 1909. Henry Ford was able to scale production to produce over 2 million cars per year by:

  • Minimizing changes to the Model T platform. Many components of the chassis were the same for every body style.
  • Reducing the number of factory hours required to produce each car. This included minimizing the number of body colors.
  • Setting aggressive target prices then finding ways to achieve those prices
  • Producing cars with standard parts in factories all over the world

Henry Ford disrupted the way people moved from one place to another by designing and manufacturing an affordable car to anyone making a decent salary. One of the color choices was black.

More than a shared understanding is required

To be very successful in new product development, more than a shared understanding is required.

A Common Perspective on Shared Understanding

In some cases, a shared understanding is facilitated during ideation (brain storming) sessions with a diverse group of individuals guided by a facilitator. The progress toward agreement may be managed by creating and arranging sticky notes and voting. In some cases, ‘shared understanding’ implies consensus. In some cases, certain opinions are promoted by the most dominant personality in the room or the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion (HiPPO).

This type of shared understanding facilitates progress in a Big Design Up Front (BDUF) context. A shared understanding promotes a feeling of confidence when requirements are written.

Note: For this post, I am not addressing the benefits of project artifacts such as style sheets, templates, and processes. These tend to promote consistency. They do not drive shared understanding.

Shared Understanding and User Stories

Recently, I have noted that the meme of ‘shared understanding’ is being associated with the requirements for user stories. The assumption seemed to be that ‘when there is a shared understanding within the development team, requirements can inform the writing of user stories.’

Challenging Shared Understanding

A shared understanding is problematic when it is incorrect or insufficient. Memes that are incorrect or insufficient are insidious.

Better Understanding

Instead of a shared understanding that may be insidious, strive to develop a network-informed, self-correcting understanding. Strive to improve the capability to detect mismatches.

Mismatch: the difference between the phenomena that is observed and the conceptual description of that situation.

A better understanding improves through cycles of synthesis, testing, and observing interactions between proposed solutions and stakeholders (such as customers, sales representatives,…). Development networks that can deliver and test prototypes are positioned to appreciate the trends that emerge and adapt to provide better solutions more efficiently.

A development network can achieve a shared understanding or, better yet, they can improve their capability for a better understanding. Shared understanding can be achieved in the isolation of a conference room. The capability for better understanding can be accelerated through interaction between stakeholders (including potential customers) and prototypes. Instead of prematurely accepting requirements, hypotheses can be validated.

Impact on Development Experience

When a development network has ample potential to improve capabilities that they value, individuals (such as designers, engineers, subject matter experts, …) are more likely to be motivated. The development environment facilitates the improvement of factors such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Such environments promote a culture where the quality of the Development Experience [DX] enables multiple successes.

A better perspective on competition during new product development

Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645) was a swordsman, a masterless samurai, and an independent teacher. He won his first duel at age 13. By the time he was 29, he had dueled more than 60 times. He never lost.

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The Book of Five Rings by Minamoto Musashi

Rule 9 from “The Book of Five Rings” by Miyamoto Musashi is “Do not do anything useless.”

Musashi’s Rules

Musashi began to write “The Book of Five Rings” in 1643. In The Earth Scroll, he summarized his rules for “learning the art:

  1. Think of what is right and true
  2. Practice and cultivate the science
  3. Become acquainted with the arts
  4. Know the principles of the craft
  5. Understand the harm and benefits of everything
  6. Learn to see everything accurately
  7. Become aware of what is not obvious
  8. Be careful even in small matters
  9. Do not do anything useless” [Page 22]

To expand #9, Musashi offered the following advice about combat:

Whenever opponents try to attack you, let them go ahead and do anything that is useless, while preventing them from doing anything useful” [Musashi, The Book of Five Rings, The Fire Scroll, Page 54]

Opponents and Competition

In new product development contexts, it is more common to use the word competition than opponent.

In new product development, discussions about competition usually evoke thoughts of external struggles between organizations to complete projects and capture market share.

During new product development, competition also exists internally. Typically, internal competition discussions include topics such as negotiations about the schedule and project resources such as headcount and equipment budgets.

There are more subtle aspects of internal competition.

Internal Competition during New Product Development

During new product development, engaging skilled and experienced practitioners can address Musashi’s rules 1-4. Involving wise practitioners can address rules 5-8.

Rule 9 is more subtle. Familiar practices and past successes may make it difficult to detect what is useless.

Success in new product development depends on your ability to determine the relative usefulness or uselessness of all potential efforts.

For a simple exercise, consider your next scheduled meeting. A decision to have a meeting creates internal competition for attention. What might be done to improve the usefulness of the meeting? Will the agenda be available before the meeting? Is there a prominent objective? Are there new documents that must to be reviewed before the meeting? Will the completion of action items be verified? Will the duration of the meeting be less than one hour? Will meeting notes be created interactively during the meeting? Can remote contributors participate in the meeting? Can these needs be fulfilled more effectively by other means?

For a more complex exercise, consider how an individual contributor (a coder, engineer, scientist, communications specialist, subject matter expert,…) validates that their contributions provide value to the project. Besides completing a task (such as writing code to implement specific functionality), how will you determine if the effort was valuable? Was there a better use of the time? How will the effort be validated in terms of project success?

For a more substantial exercise, consider how an individual’s efforts contribute to improving their development experience factors such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Developing a better perspective

Musashi’s advice was “Do not do anything useless.” This is a practical project objective and a desirable career strategy. Developing this perspective requires substantial effort and it produces significant rewards.

When efforts are not wasted on the useless, individuals can develop better perspectives to win as they evolve their focus and direction throughout projects.

End Notes

The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. Translated by Thomas Cleary. Shambhala, Boston and London. Copyright 1993.

The “Helping Gnomes that Code” post included descriptions of Requisite Variety, Pair Development, Disintermediation, and Recursion approaches to improve development options. These also apply to minimizing the potential to do anything useless.

Helping the Gnomes that Code

Some emphasize that product development begins with writing code and that effort transforms into a win. The lingering question for this type of three-part development model is “What is Phase 2?”

What is Phase 2?

Some emphasize that product development begins with writing code and that effort transforms into a win. The lingering question for this type of three-part development model is “What is Phase 2?”

What is Valued by Gnomes that Code?

Many managers track business metrics and project metrics during Phase 2 to forecast the potential to win.

What is valued by gnomes that code?

Gnomes associate winning with factors that include autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Dan Pink wrote about what motivates individuals in his book Drive.

Gnomes can develop autonomy, mastery, and purpose in an environment when there is a moderate amount of volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors. Gnomes can benefit in a development environment that is characterized by a moderate amount of adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Taleb called this type of environment antifragile.

Development Options

Taleb wrote ‘The option is an agent of antifragility.’ An agent obtains results.

An appropriately designed network continuously synthesizes development options that provide the potential to take action that may result in a favorable gain. When an attractive gain may be realized, options are exercised.

Development options:

  • Include tasks that are likely to improve the antifragility of the network during a project
  • Are a response to the question ‘what should the network embrace now to improve the potential to win in the future?’
  • Are continuously synthesized and exercised during a project within the development network to refine the focus and direction of efforts to generate a win
  • Are consistent with the concept of safe-to-fail experiments that have an asymmetric payoff function (large potential gain, small potential loss)
  • Are exercised, evolve, or expire

The capabilities of the network impact the attractiveness of the development options that are generated.

To the extent that options are exercised and provide feedback, confidence in their attractiveness tends to increase.

Multiple options can be active simultaneously to provide multiple opportunities to win within the network’s current capabilities and within the project’s current constraints.

Precursors to Development Options

Analysis is a precursor of synthesis. Analysis is a problem solving approach that divides the whole into its constituent parts. Synthesis is a process of connection.

A synthesis approach enables one to imagine how several capabilities may work together to produce the desired result. Validation may follow from a combination of decision, action, interaction, and more observations.

John Boyd represented these items in his OODA Loop sketch in his final briefing titled “The Essence of Winning and Losing” in 1995. I have expanded Boyd’s notation to represent the interactions of individuals and their efforts during a project.

A series of OODA loops with hierarchy

John Boyd’s OODA Loop sketch notation can be expanded to represent the interactions of individuals and their efforts during a project. This illustration includes the representation of simultaneous efforts within a hierarchy and the pursuit of two options simultaneously.

The following notation represents synthesizing options and exercising options throughout a development project.

Synthesizing and exercising options during new product development

Synthesizing many options and exercising attractive development options should occur rapidly throughout a project. ‘Synthesize options’ includes imagining solutions and documenting them. The cloud filled sky background of the ‘exercise option’ portion of this graphic represents the interaction of prototypes with the environment (which includes customers).

Designing to Improve the Capability to Synthesize and Exercise Attractive Development Options

Optionality can be improved by design. Concepts that can be employed in a development environment to help gnomes that code improve their capability to synthesize and exercise attractive development options include:

  • Requisite variety
  • Pair Development
  • Disintermediation
  • Recursion

When the network has requisite variety, the network has to potential to recognize all problems and to activate appropriate responses.

Requisite variety

Requisite variety addresses the importance of having proficient practitioners with a diversity of capabilities that can be mobilized in a dynamic network. The table indicates that this environment has requisite variety because the number and type of responses represented is greater than or equal to the number and type of problems represented.

Requisite variety is associated with mobilizing a network of contributors with diverse specialties and multiple perspectives. To be successful, individuals may require additional training, access to individuals with unique expertise, and new ways to cooperate.

During the project, individuals engage and disengage to maintain requisite variety and avoid the paralysis associated with excessive variety.

Pair Development facilitates the synthesis of options to develop a self-correcting focus and direction informed by the analyses of multiple perspectives.

Pair development is implemented by facilitating the interaction of individuals of different disciplines (such as a coder and a market specialist). Pair development may include activities such as dialog and sketching.

Pair development with gnomes

Pair development provides an opportunity for interaction through activities such as dialog and sketching to transform orientations. The result of pair development should be a synthesis of options, not a summary of previous activities.

Pair development provides benefits beyond distributed cognition. The purpose of pair development is not cross-training. The result of pair development should not be a summary of previous activities.

Disintermediation efforts may involve removing layers of management or removing other barriers. Disintermediation efforts may have objectives such as:

  • Improving agility
  • Rapid recognition of problems
  • Rapid implementation of solutions
  • Faster cycle times

Achieving these objectives may require the re-design of the network to facilitate communication, cooperation, collaboration, and harmony among individuals.

Achieving these objectives may require evolving the way that individuals experience the interactions of customers with prototypes (or other experiments related to the product being developed). Direct observations that promote full-fidelity interactions are preferable to mediation approaches such as presenting individuals with reports that summarize activities.

Recursion is a solution or technique in which large problems are solved by reducing them to smaller problems of the same form.

Recursion is a solution or technique in which large problems are solved by reducing them to smaller problems of the same form.

Recursion is a solution or technique in which large problems are solved by reducing them to smaller problems of the same form. A recursion approach works best in a development network with requisite variety that observes the interactions of multiple potential customers with evolving, functional, holistic prototypes.

The network’s perceptions of large problems shape the focus and direction (schwerpunkt) of the project. When developing a new product, the large problems include the customer’s experience with the product.

Large problems are evaluated by the interactions of people with products during activities such as buying, setup, use, maintenance, and troubleshooting. The large problems include the customer’s perceived value of the new product in comparison to alternatives.  The large problems may be evaluated in terms of the delight produced using the product to accomplish a task.

Recursion approach to new product development

A recursion approach provides multiple channels of feedback to a development network with requisite variety that evaluates multiple opportunities to win. Customers interacting with prototypes is represented in the upper-right corner. Four snapshot of the development network are represented during the project.

A recursion approach provides multiple channels of feedback to evaluate multiple opportunities to win.

A recursion approach works best in a development network with requisite variety that observes the interactions of multiple potential customers with evolving, functional, holistic prototypes. The interactions provide multiple opportunities to detect mismatches and develop corrections.

Mismatches: the difference between the phenomena that is observed and the conceptual description of that situation

A recursion approach provides validation that is beyond the results available from surveys. Prototypes are evaluated beyond their functionality. A recursion approach includes evaluating how one user describes a solution to another user.

A recursion approach is used to validate the attractiveness of development options.

When practicing recursion approaches, individuals that tend to identify themselves as independent specialists shift to identifying themselves as contributors to development options. Their perspectives change. They engage in efforts to solve the large problems.

Transitioning from Coding to Winning

Gnomes know how to write code.

To transition from writing code to winning, gnomes benefit from concepts such as requisite variety, pair development, disintermediation, and recursion contribute to improving the capability to synthesize and exercise development options rapidly in an antifragile development environment.

This enables gnomes that code to become winners that code.

The gnomes synthesize and exercise options.

During Phase 2, the capability to synthesize many options and exercise attractive development options rapidly enables a properly prepared network of individual contributors to realize non-linear gains that are not possible by alternate development approaches such as ones that focus on managing mandates. This enables gnomes that code to transition to winners that code.

 

Diversity in Expressing Wins

Ultimately, gnomes that code express their wins through actions that are consistent with motivating factors such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Gnomes that code may express their wins to their peers through recurring actions such as pushing files to their Git repository or answering questions on StackOverflow. These types of actions improve their development experience.

When the gnomes that code win, their success propagates. Customers express their wins by actions such as posting product reviews that described how the products enable them to be successful. Managers achieve their desired business objectives and project objectives. Managers may express their wins through actions such as presentations and publication on innovation. They may be rewarded with stock options.

Individuals in different roles express their wins to their peers through unique actions

Individuals in different roles express their wins to their peers through unique actions. Gnomes that code may express their wins through actions such as pushing files to their Git repo or answering questions on StackOverflow. Customers may express their wins by actions such as posting product reviews that describe how products enable them to be successful. Managers may express their wins through actions such as presentations and publications on innovation.


Notes:

The “What is Phase 2?” question was included in the “Gnomes” episode of South Park, Season 2. 16 December 1998. That episode provided an inspiration for this post.

The Law of Requisite Variety was formulated by W. Ross Ashby.

This post included material from my book Developing Winners.

Podcast[Requires iTunes or Apple Quicktime. Duration 9:24 minutes:seconds]

Design Thinking and the OODA Loop Sketch

Design Thinking is associated with innovation. The OODA Loop sketch encapsulates ideas associated with the essence of winning and losing. There are similarities in these two approaches and several significant differences.

Design Thinking

According to Wikipedia, Design Thinking is a “formal method for practical, creative resolution of problems or issues, with the intent of an improved future result.” Some illustrations of a process model for Design Thinking include six process phases.

A simplified process model for design thinking

A simplified process model for Design Thinking with iterative linkages between phases

Detailed process model for design thinking (Thoring & Müller, 2011)

A detailed process model for Design Thinking (based on Thoring & Müller, 2011)

The process phases are:

  • Understanding: Typically characterized by communication with other stakeholders and research. The goal is to collect existing information and become an expert.
  • Observe: Typically characterized by designers conducting interviews and observing people with a problem. The goal is to gather insight about the needs of users.
  • Point of View: Typically characterized by storytelling, clustering insights, and synthesis. The goal is to shape the perspective of each team member.
  • Ideation: Typically characterized by brainstorming, clustering ideas, and prioritizing. The goal is to generate ideas for possible solutions and then select one idea for more development.
  • Prototyping: Typically characterized by creating models, role playing, developing videos and graphics, and creating prototypes.
  • Test: Typically characterized by observing individuals interacting with prototypes. The goal is to gather feedback from users and stakeholders about the concept and the prototype.

The exclusive OR gateway (illustrated as an ‘X’ in a diamond shape) is a decision point for releasing/shipping the product to the market.

To some, a Design Thinking approach suggests that individuals can improve their potential for innovation by embracing a perspective consistent with that of the role of a designer. Alternatively, individuals without formal design training can embrace a design thinking approach as a complement to techniques associated with a master of business administration approach to management.

When employed for new product development, Design Thinking is an approach to innovation, not a guarantee. The product may be an innovation or a relatively worthless result. The market decides.

Proponents of Design Thinking include the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (D-school) at Stanford University, Roger Martin at the University of Toronto, and Tim Brown of Ideo.

OODA Loop Sketch

The OODA Loop Sketch was presented in “The Essence of Winning and Losing” briefing to the public in June of 1995 by John Boyd, a retired US Air Force Colonel. His sketch encapsulated ideas that he had developed since his time as a US Air Force fighter pilot in the late-1950s.

OODA Loop sketch

OODA Loop sketch that includes feedback, feed forward, and implicit guidance & control. Based on a 1995 sketch by John Boyd.

One OODA Cycle, which includes concurrent observation, orientation, decision, action, and unfolding interaction with environment, can occur in a moment. The duration of the OOCA cycle can be represented by the width of one group of OODA components. An OODA Loop approach involves multiple OODA cycles that enable a win.

A representation of a series of air-to-air combat maneuvers

A simplified, illustrated version of a series of air-to-combat maneuvers with corresponding OODA loops during a competitive encounter between fighter pilots (represented by BLUE and RED) plus several gunsight images. This illustration includes a representation of “getting inside an OODA loop” and the win.

Often, an OODA Loop approach is associated with warriors involved in combat. Concepts that can be employed to shape a competitive win include:

  • Discerning tactical dispositions
  • Detecting mismatches
  • Generating mismatches in time, tempo, or rhythm
  • Generating mismatches in ability
  • Novelty
  • Cheng/Ch’i
  • Shih and the node
  • Manipulating friction
  • Generating confusion for the adversary while promoting harmony within your network

Concepts, such as harmony, initiative, adaptability, Schwerpunkt, and cycle time, associated with the OODA Loop sketch can be employed by individuals or groups during projects.

Similarities of the Design Thinking Process Model and the OODA Loop Sketch

The Understand item of the Design Thinking process model is similar to the Unfolding Circumstances and Outside Information items of the OODA Loop sketch.

The Design Thinking process model and the OODA Loop sketch include Observation components.

The Point of View component with its storytelling and synthesis items in the Design Thinking process model is similar to the Orientation component with its prior experience, cultural traditions, and analyses & synthesis items of the OODA Loop sketch.

The Ideation and Prototype items of the Design Thinking process model are similar to the Decision and Action items of the OODA Loop sketch.

The Test component of the Design Thinking process model is similar to the Interaction with Environment item of the OODA Loop sketch.

The phrase Design Thinking and the pre-cursors to the OODA Loop Sketch were developed in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.

Contrasting the Design Thinking Process Model and the OODA Loop Sketch

Perhaps the most significant difference of these approaches involves perspective. A Design Thinking approach has biases for certain orientations and tools. It tends to be prescriptive.

An OODA Loop approach embraces wider perspectives and requisite variety.

Another difference involves durations. The process model of Design Thinking suggests that the time between “understanding” and “test” is in the range of hours to years. A Design Thinking approach could develop as one sequential progression from understand to test. When there is negative feedback, focus may be re-established on a particular item (such as ideate) and the sequence is resumed from that item.

One OODA cycle can occur in a moment. The goal of a series of OODA cycles is to enable a win.

Building and Employing Snowmobiles

Prior to presenting his OODA Loop sketch in 1995, Boyd summarized his insights about winners and losers in statements about snowmobiles.

A loser is someone — individual or group — who cannot build snowmobiles when facing uncertainty and unpredictable change; Whereas,

A winner is someone — individual or group — who can build snowmobiles, and employ them in an appropriate fashion, when facing uncertainty and unpredictable change.” (Boyd, Revelation, 1987)

The concept of a snowmobile was used as a placeholder for something valuable. Boyd’s distinction that winners “build snowmobiles, and employ them” acknowledges that winners go beyond synthesizing options. They design, engineer, assemble, and test their products. They are persistent in evaluating the interaction of people with their products.

The phrase ‘appropriate fashion‘ includes characteristics such as the product’s features and the product’s reliability. It includes communication about the product. It refers to the user’s experience.

The word ‘can‘ emphasizes factors such as timing (such as the availability of snow to test a snowmobile), technology readiness, and the current alternatives offered by competitors.

The phrase ‘when facing uncertainty and unpredictable change‘ acknowledges the need to improve qualities such as agility and adaptability.

A winner is not required to be the inventor of a product or technology. A winner is not required to be the first-to-market a product.

The interplay of building, employing, and evaluating produces innovation. Boyd concluded that a “continuing whirl of reorientation, mismatches, analyses/synthesis and the novelty” is a “conceptual spiral for… innovation.” (Boyd, Conceptual Spiral, 1992)

Innovation and Winning

Individuals that embrace a Design Thinking approach tend to pursue innovation efforts from a specific perspective and to promote a specific process. Individuals that embrace concepts encapsulated in Boyd’s OODA Loop sketch strive to win with a “variety of possibilities as well as the rapidity to implement and shift among them” (Boyd, Patterns of Conflict, #176)

In Boyd’s revelation, the capability to build and employ snowmobiles in an appropriate fashion when facing uncertainty and unpredictable change was used to recognize innovation. Therefore, individuals within a network that have this capability are innovators. Boyd’s revelation can be re-written as: An innovator is a winner — individual or network — who can build new products, and employ them in an appropriate fashion, when facing uncertainty and unpredictable change.

Additional Information

1. This post included extracts from my book “Developing Winners: Assimilating the Insights Encapsulated in Boyd’s OODA Loop 2. A humorous presentation, entitled “How to Lie with Design Thinking” by Dan Saffer quips that a Design Thinking approach relies too much on “the fun parts of design” and rearranging small pieces of paper with glue on one side. 2. Virgil D. White “received a patent (in 1917) for an attachment designed to convert a Model T into a ‘Snowmobile,’ a name coined and copyrighted by White” in 1913.

2. In 1917, Virgil D. White received a patent for “an attachment designed to convert a Model T into a ‘Snowmobile,’ a name coined and copyrighted by White” in 1913.

Antifragility in New Product Development

In the book Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, Nassim Nicholas Taleb shared insights on optionality that can be expanded to include new product development environments.

This post provides an introduction to the non-linear gains associated with antifragile systems that may be realized by designing new product development environments that help individuals improve their capability to synthesize many new options continuously and enhance their proficiency to exercise options that are attractive. This post includes a comparison to concepts represented in Boyd’s OODA Loop sketch.

Fragile, Robust, Resilient, and Antifragile Development Environments

Taleb’s classification of systems as fragile, robust, resilient, and antifragile may be used to characterize development environments. Every development environment can be characterized in terms of its fragility, robustness, resilience, and antifragility.

Antifragile: Things that Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Antifragile: Things that Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

A development environment that tends to be fragile does not welcome disorder. When uncertainty is injected, the results may be unpleasant.

In a fragile development environment, one obstacle can prevent the realization of value. Examples of harmful conditions include:

  • Incorrect, incomplete, or misleading information
  • A problematic handoff between functional groups
  • Disagreements among functional groups

Unpleasant results may include delays, cost overruns, and insufficient adoption of the product. Individuals tend to be frustrated. The more fragile the development environment, the less likely it is to thrive.

From project-to-project, a robust development environment tends to survive unchanged. Processes tend to be preserved. Individual contributors tend to retain their employment status.

From project-to-project, a resilient development environment survives changes from external factors. After a project is complete, there may be changes such as a re-arrangement of the organizational chart. New tools may be incorporated. The organization survives to serve the needs of the next project.

The word ‘antifragile’ is an adjective created by Taleb. It can be defined as the exact opposite of fragile.  According to Taleb, “Antifragile is beyond resilience or robustness.

An antifragile system thrives and grows when exposed to a moderate amount of volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors. An antifragile system benefits from a moderate amount of adventure, risk, and uncertainty.

Iatrogenesis

In Chapter 7, Taleb described the concept of iatrogenics as “damage from treatment in excess of the benefits.”

Iatrogenesis: preventable harm resulting from the treatment or advice of a healer.

The word iatrogenesis is not common in product development but harmful inputs may come from multiple sources. These include:

  • Specialists that assume that solutions to development problems relate to their area of expertise.
  • Innovation pundits, consultants, and vendors that offer their favorite tools and techniques as solutions
  • Interventionalists that believe that their contributions will improve outcomes
  • Status quo

It may be difficult to recognize the harmfulness associated with specific sources because of cognitive biases or unvalidated claims. Recognizing harmfulness is more difficult in development environments that isolate individuals of different functional specialties.

New product development efforts can suffer from iatrogenesis. Approaches to recognize potentially harmful inputs and reduce potential damage from harmful inputs include:

  • Requisite Variety
  • Disintermediation
  • Pair Development

Requisite Variety

The concept of requisite variety can be used to emphasize the importance of having a diversity of potential responses in a development environment.

Requisite Variety: For a system to be viable, only a variety in responses can force down the variety due to disturbances.

The Law of Requisite Variety was formulated by W. Ross Ashby

The Law of Requisite Variety was formulated by W. Ross Ashby

For a development environment to be successful, only a large repertoire of possible responses can address the variety presented by a complex set of development problems that emerge throughout projects.

In a new product development environment, requisite variety may be achieved by mobilizing a network of contributors with diverse specialties and multiple perspectives. To be successful, individuals may require additional training, access to individuals with unique expertise, and cooperation.

Without requisite variety, previously successful responses to familiar patterns may not be recognized as insufficient responses.

Without a variety of potential responses at the appropriate times, a development environment may be fragile.

If there is excessive variety, the agility of the development environment may be reduced. To ensure appropriate adaptability, the network determines that certain responses should be amplified. Other responses are attenuated.

Disintermediation removes layers between individual contributors and data. It removes barriers between decision makers. One way to facilitate disintermediation in new product development environments involves individual contributors experiencing the interactions of customers with prototypes (or other experiments related to the product being developed). Direct observations that promote full-fidelity interactions are preferable to mediation approaches such as presenting individuals with reports that summarize activities.

Pair Development is implemented by facilitating the interaction of individuals of different disciplines (such as a coder and a marketer). Pair development provides an opportunity for interaction through activities such as dialog and sketching. The result of pair development should be the synthesis of options, not a summary of previous activities. Typically, no slides sets are used during these interactions.

Pair development in new product development

The result of pair development is the synthesis of options that is informed by the analyses available from multiple perspectives.

The purpose of pair development is not cross-training. The purpose is to develop a self-correcting focus and direction informed by the analyses of multiple perspectives.

Reducing iatrogenesis is a pre-requisite to synthesizing more attractive options.

Typical Options

A typical option, such as a financial option, provides a buyer with the potential to take action by a specified date without an associated obligation to buy or sell. Typically, an individual decides to exercise an option based on their perception of value at a specific time.

According to Taleb, optionality is the property of asymmetric upside (preferably unlimited) with correspondingly limited downside (preferably small).

Optionality: a quality of state where choice or discretion is allowed.

In Chapter 12 Taleb stated that “An option is a substitute for knowledge” In Chapter 13, Taleb wrote “antifragility supersedes intelligence.

The value of a typical option depends on factors such as the negotiation skills of the individuals involved and the type of control individuals have over their decisions. Development options require additional proficiencies.

Example

Taleb summarized the experience of Thales, an ancient philosopher. Thales acquired an option to use equipment that may be needed during next year’s harvest. His potential profits or losses were not be determined solely by the accuracy of a crop forecast. If there was an abundant harvest, he could exercise his option for the equipment and be rewarded financially. If the harvest was scarce, he could decline his option and not suffer a loss. The harvest was bountiful and Thales built a substantial fortune.

Development Options

To improve the potential for success in new product development environments, an option must be more than a negotiated agreement based on a speculation. Development options are the most valuable when associated with current capabilities or a capabilities that may be acquired within an appropriate amount of time for an appropriate cost within the project constraints.

The approach to development within a network of individual contributors includes the interplay of capabilities with analyses and synthesis.

Synthesis is a process of connection. Synthesis generates something new and different. A synthesis approach enables one to imagine how a several capabilities may work together to produce the desired result.

In a properly designed new product development environment, proficient individuals analyze situations and synthesize new options continuously.

The interplay of synthesizing options and exercising options to improve antifragility

The interplay of synthesizing options and exercising options improves antifragility

The interplay of synthesizing options and exercising options includes interaction with the environment (feedback) that enables a network of individuals to comprehend, shape, and adapt during development. This enables operation at faster tempos and rhythms and the compression of cohesive observation-orientation-decision-action time cycles.

The capability to synthesize many development options and exercise a few attractive development options rapidly and repetitively enables a properly prepared network of individual contributors to realize non-linear gains that are not possible by alternate approaches such as ones that focus on managing mandates.

Comparing Development Options to Concepts Represented in Boyd’s OODA Loop Sketch

Concepts related to development options have similarities with concepts represented in John Boyd’s OODA Loop sketch.

  • The concept of synthesizing development options is similar to the Observation and Orientation items represented in Boyd’s OODA Loop sketch.
  • The concept of exercising development options is similar to the Decision, Action, and Unfolding Interaction with Environment items represented in Boyd’s OODA Loop sketch.
  • The outcome from cycles of synthesizing a multitude of development options and exercising a multitude of development options is consistent with victory and the representation of a “series of maneuvers” in an OODA Loop context.
  • The non-linear gains associated with exercising attractive options in antifragile environments are similar to Boyd’s themes for vitality and growth.
Concepts related to development options have similarities with concepts represented in John Boyd's OODA Loop sketch.

Concepts related to development options have similarities with concepts represented in John Boyd’s OODA Loop sketch. Synthesizing development options is similar to the Observation and Orientation. Exercising development options is similar to the Decision, Action, and Unfolding Interaction with Environment items.

Enhancing Optionality throughout Development

For each development project, the goal is to change the environment to improve the capability to synthesize a multitude of development options and exercise a multitude of development options that are attractive. To increase this capability throughout development, invest to improve the following objectives:

  • Design the development environment to embrace optionality
  • Produce new repertoire based on theory and refined by practice with others seeking a high level of proficiency. This requires a sustained, deliberate effort.
  • Develop the capability for rapid cycles of observation, orientation, decision, and action which is based on the OODA Loop concept from John Boyd.
  • Improve the capability to shift rapidly between options which is similar to the concept of Fast Transients from John Boyd. This is similar to improving agility.
  • Improve the capability of individuals to synthesize options that are cohesive across the network and cohesive over the duration of the project(s).
  • Improve the proficiency to exercise attractive options. Identifying attractive options includes developing a holistic perspective and recognizing iatrogenesis.

Antifragility and Development Experience

Individual contributors invest much of their time in new product development projects. Their personal investment is what Taleb refers to as “skin in the game.” I refer to an individual contributor’s day-to-day and year-to-year set of perceptions and responses as Development Experience [DX].

There are multiple approaches to improve an individual contributor’s development experience by reducing fragility, increasing robustness, or increasing resilience of the development environment. An individual contributor’s development experience may improve dramatically by designing the development environment to improve antifragility. According to Taleb, “The option is an agent of antifragility.” Options make vitality and growth possible.

Development options are agents of development experience. Development options drive non-linear gains in antifragile development networks. Designing to improve development options stimulates better performance from individual contributors even when there is volatility. This inspires better performance from others. This creates virtuous circles, beneficial cycles of development efforts. This inspires greater commitments to project success.


Additional Information

1. Taleb includes Post-Traumatic Growth as a characteristic of antifragility in Table 1 in his book. In “Beyond Surviving New Product Development” I defined:

Post Development Growth: the positive changes experienced by individuals that result from enhanced new product development capabilities. Post Development Growth includes reflection to achieve cognitive clarity. It goes beyond reflection to action.

An antifragile development environment is more likely to produce Post Development Growth. This tends to enable better outcomes in future projects.

2. A fragile development environment is consistent with the model introduced in “The Devastating Zero Model of New Product Development.”

3. Too many inputs may be harmful because it may be difficult to discern the valuable from the harmful or signal from the noise. Too many inputs reduce a network’s agility. A requisite variety approach must include ways to evaluate potential contributions to project goals. One approach is the development of “continuously correcting, network-informed schwerpunkt” described in my Reimagining How New Product Development Artifacts Impact What We Should Be Doing Today post.

4. This post included extracts from my book “Developing Winners: Assimilating the Insights Encapsulated in Boyd’s OODA Loop

Podcast
[Requires iTunes or Apple Quicktime. Duration 15 minutes]

Reimagining How New Product Development Artifacts Impact What We Should Be Doing Today

In this post, I will share ways to categorize new product development artifacts. I will clarify several memes. Then, I will offer a concept that individual contributors can use as they determine what they should be doing on a particular day.

Two Types of Artifacts in New Product Development

During new product development, many artifacts are produced. The word artifact is from the Latin phrase arte factum, skill + to make.

Typically, the product is a valuable project artifact. Other artifacts include items such as “design documents, data models, workflow diagrams, test matrices and plans, setup scripts, …” (from “What does artifact mean” on Stack Exchange).

In the context of new product development, deliverables are a subset of artifacts.

A product may be characterized as a set of external deliverables. Other items may be characterized as internal deliverables. Some of the internal deliverables may be maintained as documents. These are not the only artifacts.

In the context of new product development, deliverables are a subset of artifacts.

In the context of new product development, deliverables are a subset of artifacts.

Other Artifacts in New Product Development

In addition to external deliverables and internal deliverables, artifacts include:

  • Items used to produce deliverables such as tools
  • Secondary items produced during development. These may be unintended items.
  • Items that are not incorporated into the current project but may be incorporated into future development efforts. This includes training.
  • Incomplete, unfinished, or abandoned items
  • Intangibles such as development strategies, tactics, and culture

These items are a subset of artifacts.

Why it is Difficult to Determine What is Important Today

Individual contributors ask “What should I be doing now?” and “Why?” There may be questions such as ’Should a specific artifact be created?’ and ‘How much effort should be expended creating it?’ Resolving priorities may be difficult because of situations such as:

  • The number of items that could be explored during a project may be greater than the network’s (1) development capacity.
  • Predictions about the future (including how much effort will be required to develop a particular item such as a user story or feature) are estimates about an emerging set of conditions.
  • Some items are not on the list of considerations. Because of a lack of experience and insight, these items are not known.
  • Some priorities may be specified explicitly. Some issues seem to require immediate resolutions. Some priorities evolve.
  • Interruptions impact flow (2). This includes flow within functional groups and flow between functional groups and the system.
  • There are dependencies. For example, a coder’s efforts may precede a technical writer’s efforts during development.

Perspectives Influence the Perception of Value

The value of any artifact is subject to the perspectives of the stakeholders. Coders tend to value working code. Some individuals may stress the importance of prototypes they created. Copywriters tend to value persuasive messages. Other individuals favor spreadsheets.

Even though the word artifact has noble origins, it may have positive or negative connotations. Sometimes, there is an implication that certain types of artifacts have less value than a product delivered to the customer. For example, the Agile Manifesto includes the phrase “working software over comprehensive documentation.”

Perceptions about the value of artifacts and the attention that they should receive are driven by factors that include:

  • The status quo. A bias to repeat what was done previously. Value is attributed to what was delivered previously.
  • The loudest voice. The person that has the most authority. HiPPO, which is an acronym for “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion”
  • Curated information that may of may not be validated
  • Expectations from estimates and milestones.
  • Feedback from well-crafted experiments

Sub-optimization

When a multitude of individuals with diverse specialties develop artifacts, there may be a tendency to sub-optimize efforts.

Sub-optimization: A situation characterized by an individual (or a group of practitioners with a specific function) that tends to work within their specialty (sometimes referred to as silos) without regard for the impact on the output of the entire development effort (also known as the system).

Indicators of sub-optimization may include:

  • Efforts expended to improve a component do not improve the system performance
  • The success-limiting component does not receive the appropriate resources
  • Rewards are silos-centric instead of the system-centric

For the individuals that comprise the development network, producing artifacts quickly is not the main objective of new product development. That would be sub-optimizing based on a proxy for value. However, the capability to produce artifacts quickly contributes to achieving the main objectives.

Besides making decisions about which artifacts to develop, choices are made about developing the capabilities to produce artifacts. These choices depend on the proficiencies of the individuals that are mobilized for the development network and additional training that they receive.

Preparing to Make Better Choices

Suggestions that may help individual contributors make better hour-by-hour and day-to-day choices include:

  • Better choices are enabled when individuals improve their proficiency. According to John Boyd,  “It is advantageous to possess a variety of responses that can be applied rapidly to gain sustenance, avoid danger, and diminish adversary’s capacity for independent action.” (Boyd, Patterns of Conflict, #12)
  • Some specialists tend not to believe that solutions exist outside of their area of expertise. Although a cross-functional team strategy may surface a few perspectives, employing the concept of Requisite Variety provides multiple perspectives to inform better choices about the system.
  • Better choices require considering the immediate needs and the entire timeline of the current project and the impact of the timelines related to future products.
  • The interplay of functional specialties accelerates the development of implicit coordination. It improves the resiliency of the network.

Suggestions that may help development networks (which are also be known as the system) improve their capabilities for cooperation, collaboration, and harmony include:

  • Invest in the development of Einheit, the short-term alignment of individual efforts.
  • Invest to improve schwerpunkt, a concept that provides focus and direction for the long term. It provides actionable guidance in situations where there are no explicit directions. It reinforces mutual trust. According to John Boyd, Schwerpunkt “acts as a center or axis or harmonizing agent.“ (Boyd, Patterns of Conflict #78) It contributes to a focus on the results.
  • Invest in the development of continuously self-correcting, network-informed schwerpunkt. This is the capability to adapt the concept that provides focus and direction over time so that the network can detect and correct mismatches from factors such as accumulated learning, evolving market conditions, and new boundary conditions.
NPD networks and the product

A continuously self-correcting NPD network has the capability to detect and correct mismatches from factors such as accumulated learning, evolving market conditions, and new boundary conditions.

The phrase “working software over comprehensive documentation” from the Agile Manifesto should not be over-simplified to “eliminate documentation.” The improvement kata, a systematic, scientific routine of thinking and acting from the Toyota Production System should not be over-simplified to “eliminate artifacts by reducing the seven wastes (muda).”

Functional Specialists Embracing the System Perspective

To be more successful in a development network, find better ways to produce and integrate artifacts that contribute to the goals of development.

To make better hour-by-hour and day-by-day decisions, embrace a system perspective when writing more lines of code or producing more pages of documentation. Move beyond a perspective that is limited by reductionism or procrustean solutions. Encourage deliberative subtraction (deciding what not to develop) from the perspective of the system. Embrace new product development as more than a collection of diverse artifacts.

Embrace new product development as more than a job characterized by obvious answers where choices are framed as ‘OR’ selections. Embrace “AND” selections that meet the needs of the present and anticipate development in the future. Facilitate set-based design over point-based design. Strive to be proficient problem solvers that also invest in future capabilities. Incorporate artifacts that contribute to the goals and minimize distractions.

First rate individual contributors have the ability to hold a requisite variety of ideas about artifacts in their mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. Refactoring F Scott Fitzgerald from The Crack-Up, April 1936 (3)

With that capability, you can improve your Development Experience [DX] which is another artifact that should be made skillfully.

Endnotes

This post included extracts from my book “Developing Winners: Assimilating the Insights Encapsulated in Boyd’s OODA Loop
1. The definition of New Product Development Network from the Glossary for New Product Development

A New Product Development (NPD) Network is a temporary, dynamic, adaptive system designed to evolve a product vision and compare that to the reality of their current version. In an NPD network, individuals may report to multiple managers in multiple companies and have multiple priorities. Many individuals engage and disengage during the project.

Often, the word “teams” implies that most of the individual contributors are employed by one organization and assigned to a relatively small number of functional areas (such as engineering and marketing). Often, an individual is assigned to a project for most of the duration of the project. In contrast, NPD work groups are assigned specific tasks.

2. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi proposed this concept of flow.

3. The original quote was “The test of a first rate individual contributor is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” by F Scott Fitzgerald

Podcast
[Requires iTunes or Apple Quicktime. Duration 12:18]

Paul McCartney and Subtle Signals

When the Beatles performed on the Ed Sullivan Show on 9 February 1964, there was noise from screaming fans. During this performance, John, Paul, George, and Ringo had difficulty hearing each other. However, they delivered a great performance. How did they coordinate their musical efforts?

Requisites to Coordination

The requisites to coordination in that noisy environment included:

  • Individually, John, Paul, George, and Ringo were proficient musicians. They invested years developing their musical abilities.
  • As a group, the Beatles practiced together for years. They performed under a diverse set of conditions. They had experience in ideal performance conditions and challenging performance conditions.
  • Musically, they knew what to expect. They pre-selected songs for the performance that they had mastered. The arrangements were designed for live performance by four musicians. These arrangements were familiar.
  • They did not rely on a technology that they could not control. They did not have a sophisticated audio monitoring system. They did not have headphones or in-ear personal audio monitors.
  • They did not rely on delayed feedback from others involved in the production.

In part, the quality of the musical performance required using information accumulated in the past to influence the future. This can be called a feed forward approach. A feed forward approach benefits from the involvement of proficient practitioners. In a feed forward approach, training precedes performance.

In other contexts, a feed forward approach may be characterized by a control signal that is transmitted from a source to a destination.

Prominent Signals and Subtle Signals

During the performances in 1964, the crowd noise was a prominent signal. During the performances, there were valuable subtle signals.

In a noisy environment, these subtle signals correlated with specific parts of each song. They included:

  • Discernible sounds such as the crash of a cymbal or the rumble from the bass drum
  • Facial expressions of the other musicians including mouth movements
  • Movements of fingers, arms, and feet of the other musicians
  • Interactions with the environment such as instantaneous interaction of the performance and reactions from the crowd

(Based on remarks by Paul McCartney in “The Beatles: The Night that Changed America. CBS 9 February 2014)

The subtle signals provided feedback during the performances. Feedback is an approach that uses information about current results to influence operation in the present. Feedback modifies a system based on interim results. Feedback changes the system output. This approach may be referred to as closed-loop feedback.

Subtle signals should be incorporated judiciously. Considerations include:

  • Valuable subtle signals may not be available when they would be the most useful.
  • Valuable subtle signals may be overlooked by novices.
  • An individual musician may not have the capacity to discern valuable subtle signals from the spurious subtle signals. Stated another way, an individual may not know that a subtle signal is valuable when they detect it.
  • The value of amplifying a particular signal by a specific amount is assessed by the nature of the results and the interaction with the environment.

Incorporating the appropriate subtle signals enabled the Beatles to be proficient performers in environments with nearly overwhelming undesirable noise.

Camera Operators Coordinated Their Efforts

It was so noisy in the Ed Sullivan Theater during the Beatles’ performances that the camera operators could not hear the instructions from the program director. The camera operators were proficient individually. They formed a cohesive team. They framed every shot without being able to hear the coordinating instructions from the director. The next week, a decision was made to replace the open-ear headphones with over-the-ear headphones.

(Based on remarks by the production crew in “The Beatles: The Night that Changed America. CBS 9 February 2014)

Mismatches

Mismatches address the differences of “our mental images/impressions and the reality it is supposed to represent” (John Boyd, Conceptual Spiral, 1992, 25)

A 2-dimensional model of impression, representation of reality, and reality.

A 2-dimensional model of impression, representation of reality, and reality.

Impressions flow from previous experience which includes knowledge, skills, training, and capabilities. Practice and theory shape impressions. Impressions establish the boundaries of the decisions that can be made and the actions that are possible. Words that can be substituted for impressions may include hypothesis and model.

Impressions may be faulty or incomplete. Impressions are built on assumptions. Biases influence impressions. Individual observations may be misleading. Errors may be unknown.

Representations of reality are influenced by:

  • Observations
  • Feedback from decisions
  • Feedback from actions
  • Interactions with the environment

Representations of reality may be faulty or incomplete.

Approaches should be developed to detect and correct mismatches. A properly developed approach enables impressions and representations of reality to be addressed and improved.

Mismatches address the differences of “our mental images/impressions and the reality it is supposed to represent” (John Boyd, Conceptual Spiral, 1992, 25)

Mismatches address the differences of “our mental images/impressions and the reality it is supposed to represent” (John Boyd, Conceptual Spiral, 1992, 25)

The mismatch approach summarized in this post is based on the insights of John Boyd. Some of his insights are encoded in his OODA (for Observation, Orientation, Decision, and Action) Loop sketch (Boyd, The Essence of Winning and Losing, 1995).

OODA Loop sketch

OODA Loop sketch that includes feedback, feed forward, and implicit guidance & control. Based on a 1995 sketch by John Boyd.

Although the word “mismatch” is not one of the labeled items, the concept is encapsulated in the sketch and described in Boyd’s Conceptual Spiral briefing of 1992.

In situations that rely on a coordination of efforts, the potential for success is improved with rapid feedback and feed forward capabilities. An approach that has been developed to detect and correct mismatches can provide a way to make corrections dynamically. It provides a framework to ensure that mistakes aren’t propagated.

Proficient craftsman can incorporate selected subtle signals appropriately to achieve valuable results nearly instantaneously.

A mismatch approach can be used in situations that include preparation, performance, and retrospective phases. In these situations, there may be long delays between analysis, plans, actions, and consequences. In these types of situations, feedback is delayed and it is more difficult to perceive relationships between cause and effect.

Prominent signals, subtle signals, and noise plus their interactions contribute to mismatches. Mismatches are multidimensional.

Applications to Development Experience in New Product Development

John, Paul, George, and Ringo continuously synchronized their efforts. Subtle signals helped Paul McCartney and the other Beatles coordinate their musical efforts during performances on the Ed Sullivan Show under conditions of extreme noise in 1964.

To improve your development performance, evaluate your approach to:

  • Requisites to Coordination
  • Subtle signals
  • Feedback
  • Feed forward
  • Impressions
  • Representations of reality
  • Mismatches

An appropriate analysis will suggest additional investment opportunity areas such as theory and practice. You will have insights to discern the valuable subtle signals from the spurious.  Strive to improve your agility so that you can learn faster than the speed of the market and faster than competitors.

Analogous concepts can be applied to improve Development Experience [DX] in new product development.

Additional Information

The concept of prominent and subtle signals is not the same as weak and strong signals as described in the February 2014 McKinsey & Company article, “The strength of ‘weak signals:’ Snippets of information, often hidden in social-media streams,” offer companies a valuable new tool for staying ahead. In that article, weak signals refer to beliefs of a small population of elite users that may be thought to have a better than average capability to predict trends in the future. Subtle signals can be used to impact the present.

Endnotes

This post included extracts from my book “Developing Winners: Assimilating the Insights Encapsulated in Boyd’s OODA Loop


Podcast

[Requires iTunes or Apple Quicktime. Duration 9:20]

The Unexpected Benefit of Interactive Prototypes in New Product Development

The greatest value of producing interactive prototypes can be the impact on the network developing new products. In some development environments, this value may not be communicated as a primary objective.

Sequential Development Processes

Some textbooks summarize the steps to new product development (NPD) as a sequential process:

  1. Select one idea from a large list of possibilities
  2. Scope the project. Develop a plan that includes estimates to transition from an idea to a complete new product
  3. Craft a business case or business model
  4. Develop the product. These development activities are typically done by individuals in roles such as scientist, engineer, coder, tester, marketer, subject matter expert, project manager, product manager, …)
  5. Test the product internally
  6. Produce high fidelity prototypes
  7. Place prototypes with potential customers for external test
  8. Craft a marketing communications package
  9. Launch the product to the intended market
Phased Gate Approach to New Product Development

A phased-gate approach to new product development is characterized by a sequential process used to manage projects

Often, this approach is administered by:

  • A formal management process such as a Stage-Gate® process
  • A resource management process that includes a list of requirements for specific project roles
  • Other explicit processes, checklists, procedures, and practices

Often, when Agile or Lean concepts are introduced, the impact is limited to the day-to-day activities of development.

Common Uses of Prototypes in New Product Development

There are many kinds of prototypes associated with a sequential product development process.

Some prototypes are produced quickly. They are used to evaluate a few design parameters. Typically, these prototypes are discipline specific. Artists sketch. Electrical engineers breadboard. Designers wireframe. Marketers test messages with focus groups. Typically, these prototypes are produced early in the development effort. Often, the process of designing and building these prototypes enhances the capabilities of the functional specialists that produce them. The raw data from testing these prototypes remains within a small group of like-minded specialists. In many cases, an interpretation of the test results is summarized in reports that are distributed to other specialists and managers.

Other prototypes are produced in limited quantities near the end of the development process. The construction of these high-fidelity prototypes requires the integration of components from multiple functional disciplines. Since the prototypes are constructed prior to the market launch, the potential for changing the product is minimized. Often, the major reasons for the production of high fidelity prototypes are:

  • Test the integration of components developed by separate groups of specialists
  • Gather testimonials for use in the market launch
  • Use for compliance testing (such as electrical safety, crash testing, drop testing,…)
  • Forecast production problems

Other names for these prototypes include alpha-units or beta units.

Typical Benefits of Interactive Prototypes

Prototypes can be static or interactive. Typically, interactive prototypes can provide insights that a static prototypes can not. For example, instead of a designer producing static sketches of web pages, the prototype could be designed and developed in HTML and CSS. Instead of asking someone to evaluate the aesthetics of sketches, evaluators interact with dynamic prototypes to perform tasks and solve simulated problems.

Dynamic prototypes have the potential to provide valuable feedback. Since the feedback loop from the evaluator to the designer is faster, the potential for misinterpretation of the evaluator’s comment by the designer is minimized. The potential to detect mismatches (what the designer believed that the customer wanted and what the customer needs) is maximized.

When evaluators interact with prototypes, deficiencies are revealed. Individual contributors are presented with an opportunity to fix their mistakes and learn from the experience. When the testing efforts focus on product functions, prototype testing tends to impact individual contributors. Individual learning is associated with this testing.

Typically, interactions with prototypes impact an individual contributor’s orientation (the way they approach the challenges of development).

Typically, the primary benefits associated with the testing of interactive prototypes are associated with the potential to improve user experience (UX).

Unexpected Benefits

The value of producing interactive prototypes can go beyond generating user experience data. The greatest value can be the impact on the network developing the new product.

Individuals with enhanced capabilities in a new product development network

Individuals with enhanced capabilities in a new product development network are indicated by the difference in color and size. The white-colored field that surrounds these two individuals indicates better interactions between these contributors.

When the development of interactive prototypes involves many individuals from diverse specialties, it changes the way the network approaches development. When individuals from different perspectives (such as engineering and marketing) work together to develop an abundant number of interactive prototypes, the benefits include:

  • New opportunities for cooperation, collaboration, and harmony
  • Reduction of the innovation gap (the time from an idea to value creation)

Fewer tasks must be defined explicitly. Tacit knowledge is developed. The construction and maintenance of To-Do lists can be minimized because corrections are more likely to be made in real-time instead of adding items to a backlog for processing at a later time. The network becomes more cohesive. Appreciation of other perspectives improves. Situational awareness improves. The ability of the network to adapt improves. Network agility improves. The orientation of the network becomes more implicit. The potential for innovation improves.

When interactive, holistic prototypes are built and evaluated frequently throughout the development effort, the unexpected benefits include realtime improvements to feedback, feed forward, and implicit guidance and control proficiencies throughout the network.

OODA Loop sketch

OODA Loop sketch that includes feedback, feed forward, and implicit guidance & control. Based on a 1995 sketch by John Boyd.

As the development capabilities of the network are enhanced, the development approach becomes more recursive, the Development Experience [DX] for improves, and the probability of project innovation is maximized.

An improved potential for innovation is compounded. It can span the current project, the next project, and adjacent projects. Individuals retain enhanced capabilities for future development projects with other networks.

Endnotes

This post included extracts from the book “Developing Winners: Assimilating the Insights Encapsulated in Boyd’s OODA Loop” by OpLaunch founder, Mark A Hart.

Podcast