Learning a new skill or creating a new product from a nascent idea seem like complicated efforts. There have to be a lot of roles and responsibilities identified, we have to spend significant time with books and teachers, and the market must be just right. True, isn’t it? Well, maybe not.
Creating new products and learning new skills share some fundamental basic concepts. Fortunately, these concepts are pretty simple and don’t require lots of time and resources.
First, projects and learning share a foundation of curiosity. We have to be curious to learn how customers are using existing products, what problems they currently face, and which trends influence their decisions. Likewise, we must have a sense of curiosity to understand how we can improve our own skills, productivity, and efficiency. Learning starts with curiosity and wondering how to do a task better.
They say “curiosity killed the cat,” yet if you’ve ever watched a favorite pet approach something new, you understand curiosity for learning. Years ago, my kitten was curious about a big, stuffed bear I had set out as a Christmas decoration. He studied the bear from a distance. He didn’t get too close to the bear because he was unsure if the stuffed animal was friend or foe. Eventually, he lowered his body to look as small as possible and again studied the fuzzy, stuffed bear. Suddenly, he dashed out from behind a chair, whacked the bear solidly with his right paw, and ran back to safety behind the chair.
Of course, curiosity didn’t kill my cat and he finally made peace with the stuffed Christmas bear. He had to study and experiment to learn the bear was non-threatening. He also had to act on curiosity in the first place.
In both new product development and learning, timing is everything. New products can become superstars in a market if the timing is perfect or launch as an over-priced dud if the timing is wrong. Consider the recent rage for Pokemon Go, a huge hit because the timing was right. Yet, interest in golf as a sport today is waning. Society and trends favor some product trends while leaving others to wither.
Similarly, learning new skills must occur when we need the new skill. Our need for developing a skill may be driven by our curiosity of how something works or how to improve a product or service. When we show the curiosity to improve our productivity or efficiency, we need to have learning tools available at the right time.
We may learn from a trusted leader or mentor showing us how to conduct a new activity or task. We may also need to pursue learning a new skill through other means if we don’t have access to a skilled expert. Or, we may learn (like my kitten did) through study and experimentation.
Today, online learning is a convenient and affordable way to satisfy our curiosity about a subject. Online courses deliver quick instruction, including the fundamentals, to help someone get up to speed at the right time. We are also blessed with learning through a variety of devices and methods so we can not only learn a new skill at the right time but also at the right place.
The last element of commonality between a new product launch and learning a new skill is experimentation. Remember my cat? He tested to see if the bear was friend or foe by whacking it with his paw. When the bear did not cry out, respond in kind, or even move, my cat conducted further experiments. He again ran to the bear and whacked it. After a few trials, he realized he didn’t need to retreat behind the chair. He stood a few feet away and observed the bear. After a few more (hilarious) whacks with his paw, my cat laid down a few feet in front of the now innocuous bear and took a nap. Though, he still did not trust his safety completely, he napped with one eye open, affixed to the stuffed Christmas bear in case of a future threat.
Cats might make laughable subjects of viral YouTube videos, but we can understand experimentation as a learning tool. Certainly, in new product development, we must experiment and test features and functions within a variety of potential customers. Trial of a minimally viable product can validate customer need and inform the new product development team of required design enhancements.
Learning, too, is informed by experimentation. We might try a specific task with our existing skill sets. If it doesn’t work, we will adjust and adapt our approach. Exercises, case studies, and formal tests all validate learning of a specific topic. Professional certifications, like New Product Development Professional (NPDP) and Project Management Professional (PMP®), allow for experimentation by applying industry-wide theory and best practices to your specific situation.
Learning at the Right Time
Learning, like the commercialization of a new product, requires the proper timing. Timing of the learning event is preceded by curiosity to improve and to gain knowledge. Learning tools deliver the skills at the right time so that the new information can be applied on-the-job to enhance productivity and efficiency. And, learning requires experimentation to address specific problems with the tools and techniques assembled from practice and education.
If you’d like to learn more about new product development or NPDP Certification, please take a free class or join us for an in-depth, 2-day best practices workshop. We also offer on-demand learning that is quick, convenient, and affordable and is especially geared toward busy professionals that need to earn professional development hours (PDHs) to maintain their existing certifications. It’s simple to study, learn, and earn!
Study. Learn. Earn. Simple.
by Global NP Solutions, LLC