Testing in the real world

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The usual mistake an inventor makes is perfecting the product at the lab before testing it in the real market. Many inventors withdraw into a lab environment detached from the outside world and try to build the product to perfection in “his or her own mind”.

When I was given the first opportunity to take a preliminary hair styling device from the lab to be tested on real people’s hair in a real salon, I feared. I thought it was not ready and needed much more work before any test on an actual person. I had a fear of failure and possibly negative feedback from the users. The other members of the team however were convinced that we needed to move forward and test in the real world - it was time to pack the bag for the first real world test.

During the test, all the fears came true! There were multiple failures; the volunteer expressed multiple concerns and negative comments. Inside the salon momentarily our faith in the product was ripped apart. Despite the failure, the lessons we learned that day were an eye opener and were critical in understanding how to move forward with our product.

From that day, I learnt that we have to let go of the fear of failure. It is difficult to assume what the users expect from the product. It is also difficult to predict how a product might fail in the real world. Hence, it is not likely to attain product-market fit by staying comfortably in the bounds of a lab. When we have a preliminary version of a novel product, we have to test it as quickly as possible in real world settings.

This stage of the product development process is the most difficult part of a project. Bringing an idea into a working prototype in the lab is relatively easy as compared to building a working product in the real world. The complexity also increases as often there are many inter-related parameters and any change to any parameter leads to transient failures of other parameters. Hence, any modification is a painful juggling task to achieve a working system. As difficult as it is, it’s a rewarding process when you get to the point when a user says "I love your product."

Posted by Pradeep

Pradeep graduated with a PhD from the National University of Singapore, Master’s from Indian Institute of Technology and MBBS from Trichur Medical College, India. He holds the role of Senior Research Scientist at Mirakel Technologies where he focuses on the invention of new breakthrough technologies, prototyping, trials and actively participating in the product development & commercialization. He was the principal inventor behind the hair straightening technology being commercialized at Mirakel Technologies.