Andre Nel

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Exploratory Prototyping Advice from an Inventor

You have an idea, now what? Unless your idea is ridiculously simple, you will probably need to develop it. Almost no ideas come fully formed. They must evolve to approach their final form. Evolution takes place through a process of exploration whereby the inventor plays with the idea and learns. The best method for playing and learning is making a prototype. Making a physical model will often expose overlooked problems and opportunities for improvement. I cannot count the number of times that, in the construction of a prototype, I discovered obvious problems that I had missed. In addition, I discovered many ways to improve upon my idea.

Inventing Advice: How to Improve Upon a Product

There are always trade-offs in design work. Design features often conflict. For example, a big heavy vehicle is usually safer but the gas mileage is lower. But one of the things I have learned in my years as a product developer is that decisions have consequences. The biggest consequence of making a decision in product development is that the field of all subsequent decisions is contracted. That is, you reduce your list of options. It seems that ideas condense from a gas to a solid. They start out in a nebulous intangible form and condense into a solid physical entity. So bottom line, postpone any decisions on how to do things, initially. Brainstorming is the first order of business.