Be wary of the phrase “formula for success.” It is a fallacy to believe there is one cookie-cutter “formula” that works for all product development projects.

Over our 23 years in business, there is one theme we have noticed in every project we have worked on: each project is different.

This is largely why we do not believe in using a boilerplate proposal or a standardized process to take each client through. That is not to say we don’t have a process we lean on to attack projects, but we have realized that our process needs to be adaptable to the unique needs of each client. An inventor who comes to us with a napkin sketch has very different needs (and constraints) than a multi-national company looking to revamp their established product line.

Years ago, a clever inventor approached SPARK with a simple idea for a small plastic pyramid to support items like shutters and cabinet doors as you paint them. The Painter’s Pyramid was one of the shortest projects SPARK has worked on—maybe and hour or two to 3D model it and work with his molders to get the design ready for manufacturing—but the client went on to sell hundreds of thousands en route to securing a licensing deal with Hyde Tools. 

Would he have benefited from starting with an extensive discovery phase researching his end user and establishing design criteria? In this case no—not when turning his idea into a tangible product took so little time, money, and effort. His best path was to actually make a product and then see if people want it. If it was a flop, he would have learned something quickly and still had the opportunity to iterate or kill the project. From our first meeting we could see this and worked together to get him where he needed to go without depleting his funds working through unnecessary steps.

Contrast that with a client like First Wave Product Group. They were a startup that saw a need in the assisted living market for a universal pill crusher—an automated device that could turn any size pill into a powder. They purchased IP but had no idea where to start. SPARK worked with them from the beginning to understand the problem and user before embarking on an extensive R&D phase of work to design the core technology that could take. Unlike the Painter’s Pyramid, it was one of the more extensive design projects SPARK has undertaken.

As consultants we have done this enough to know what works and what does not and we have structured our process to reflect that. It is adaptable so that we can apply it as needed on a project to project basis. If any consultants try to sell you on a standard process before they have gotten to know you and your unique challenges and constraints, they may not have your best interests in mind. SPARK views any client that we are fortunate enough to work with as a valuable partner, emphasizing a mutually beneficial relationship over a quick buck.