Can You “Go With Your Gut” in Product Development?

I recently read a blog on BNET entitled “Facts, Schmacts. How to Know When to Go With Your Gut.”

If there’s one way to catch my attention, it’s underplaying analytics. I’m a skeptic at heart when it comes to impulsive business decisions, so I started reading the blog with one raised eyebrow. I believe someone should be able to answer the question: “Why?” intelligently regarding their decisions. However, their answer could certainly be unrelated to metrics, so I read on, leaving my baggage at the door.

Though author Michael Hess touches on a few areas, what I find most interesting about his blog is the idea that product development can be a gut decision. Focusing on small and medium businesses, the idea is that you don’t always have time to do market research and numbers analysis. You could lose your lead, since the big guys are already producing while you’re still at the research and development stage.

But shortcuts in product development can be dangerous and limited, and can drastically affect the outcome.

When you cut out research you reduce your time-to-market and gain the competitive advantage for a time, yes. But, as a small or medium business, do you have the capital to fail?

I’m going to be a technology evangelist for a moment. Rather than investing in the development of a gut decision, wouldn’t it be smarter to invest in technology that allows you to simplify your  product development processes?

I know that by saying this I’m the equivalent of the ShamWow! guy telling you that paper towels are bad for the environment. However, I think most people sitting under executives will tell you that better technology makes their jobs easier. Easier = Faster. Faster = More Profitable. Those are some metrics I think we can all stand behind.

I’m curious about what designers and other professionals in the product development field think. Is product development something you can just create with a quick gut check?

This entry was posted in Best Practices, Product Lifecycle Management and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 thoughts on “Can You “Go With Your Gut” in Product Development?”

  1. Jennifer Martinson says:

    Loved the ShamWow analogy. Sometimes it’s about an intuition and taking that leap of faith in our innate human instinct. It is like an impulse on making a decision to buy a particular stock. It’s the risky gamble where you stand to gain the most on a stock investment. You can reap the greatest profit when you get in before anyone else. The only way to do this legally is to go with your gut. Right? Sure at times it can work, but these are tough odds. A very risky business indeed. It’s ok if you have the finances to support your losses, but if you don’t have the funds…. I’d think long and hard before taking that bet.

  2. Nicole says:

    From a designers perspective, “going with your gut” works initially for companies I find. However, as time moves on and you become more entrenched and recognized in a certain world (for me it’s designing for small to mid size companies in the tabletop market) you absolutely need market research to maintain your success. Investing in technology to do that is definitely the way to go. Gut reactions take you from 0-60 when you’re new and exciting to people but once you’ve been around for a few years, customers and buyers expect you to know who THEY are what THEY want so you better be on top of that.

  3. Doug Halliday says:

    Very interesting subject…. there is obviously a difference between mature products and new concepts regarding “gut feel”, so generalization is dangerous. That said, I would say that “gut feel” is often profound understanding of particular needs that products can address and intimate understanding of how they are used. Market research in the form of customer clinics, surveys and such may serve a need, but the best product companies don’t need to ask customers for feedback on new ideas. The best companies study customers the way and anthropologists observe human behavior. Decision makers/product teams are often representative of the market. They are first and foremost product enthusiasts themselves. For example, in the auto industry, where I spend most of my career, these are “car guys” (no gender bias intended). That means something special, and these people need to be listened to. Of course, that true elsewhere. Imagine Steve Jobs asking customers what to do next. I don’t think so.

    My two cents….

  4. mevinceso says:

    I think that the first phase in any development process is about going with your gut…drafting and prototyping several ideas as quickly as possible. From there, iterate, iterate, iterate (while removing concepts which are no longer ideal). The iteration process is where technology is beneficial and can minimize potential problems. But that first problem is all gut, based on experience, knowledge, and creativity.

  5. This is all great feedback; there are so many different paths you can go down with this discussion. Your industry and company size are just a few things that factor in.

    @Nicole – From a design standpoint, I would think it certainly has a lot to do with forecasting trends. So I can see where going with your gut could put you going in the wrong direction. You have to really think about the mass appeal and where the market is going.

    @Doug You make a really good point that you can’t generalize on this topic. I’d think the “car guys” are pulling their gut feelings from experience and a proven track record. This made me stop and think – if you’ve already proven you know what’s successful then going with your gut makes total sense.

    @mevinceso- I’ll admit, I’m a fan of multiple iterations. It gives me a much better idea on what direction to go in. What do you think about deciding what the product is going to be? I’m not sure what industry you’re in, but I’m curious about your thoughts on that decision process.

    So with all of that said I’m now wondering what role going with a ‘gut feeling’ plays in halting/supporting innovation? My first instinct would be to say it prevents true innovation, but then looking at Steve Jobs as an example I’m not so sure.

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