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October 25th, 2016

Look for External Talent Outside Your Internal Comfort Zone

Looking for an outside agency to integrate with your product development team can be daunting. It’s tempting to start by going straight to people with experience in your industry. There’s logic to that, but it isn’t necessarily the best answer. Expertise doesn’t always guarantee innovation. Just because an agency has designed similar products to yours doesn’t mean they’d be the best fit to help you innovate and dominate your industry.

If you’re looking to explore the depth and breadth of what’s possible for your next product, you need to look at  design firms with both a depth and breadth of experiences as well.

Here are a few reasons to step outside your comfort zone when considering outside designers and engineers to trust with your next big product.

1. There is rarely such a thing as totally relevant experience.

The roadmap to making your next product great will be unique. Expecting your project to unfold exactly like an agency’s past client is not realistic. Especially when you consider the nuanced history, identity, and mission of your organization. Why not choose designers who look at your project through new eyes, without the bias of similar past experiences? If you choose an agency based on how many related manufacturers they’ve served, they might have developed a preconceived mindset—perhaps that of a competitor. A new perspective is where original ideas are born.

2. A strong design process will reveal insights, regardless of industry.

When examining an organization’s client list and body of work, look for project successes illustrated by a sound method, not just ones that appear to have a feature or style that aligns with your vision. Your design partners and contractors should help you make discoveries. Your internal team can be the experts, working hand-in-glove with outside partners who lend innovative perspectives. Firms with a proven process will be able to uncover game-changing ideas that can move your product to a place of preference, no matter what your business.

3. Diverse experiences breed better thinking.

Look for a design firm that has created products for a wide range of clients. The more, the better. Powerful problem solving teams will connect the dots between seemingly unrelated ideas, industries, and applications. Simply put, adding discordant experiences can create new harmonies. To these groups, a technical success comes not only from continual improvements across generations, but also from brave leaps that might surpass their competitors and even change the landscape of the market.

It’s possible that the next “World’s Best Thingamajig” might be envisioned by designers who have collectively tackled outboard boat engines, surgical tools, computer peripherals, and/or vacuum cleaners. For the best designers, it’s how you think, just as much as what you have done that defines your skill.

Speaking of vacuum cleaners, the revolutionary Dyson vacuum is a great example of this. James Dyson forever changed the home cleaning market not because he was a veteran vacuum expert, but because his experiences with massive industrial cyclone towers gave him an insight into the limitations of existing vacuum cleaners. It was his “non-industry experience” that provided the relevant spark to make his idea disruptive.

Teams that borrow ideas, methods, or techniques from an array of applications and industries possess the fertile ground in which you can plant your big idea. So the next time you’re looking to add some outside talent to your big project, consider a group that hasn’t done “your thing” yet. They just might help you stretch above and beyond your original vision.

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