Science V Strategy: a comparison of science and product design strategy

Science… or design? (image by Geralt via pixabay)

These are the steps (dialed up to 11):

1. Find a problem that needs to be solved.

2. Make sure that the problem is important, find out who it is important to, and determine who is affected by it (sometimes the same people, but not always).

3. Learn the ways that other people have tried to solve this problem, and why they were not able to solve it, or why they have not solved it completely.

4. Think about what you could do differently, or additionally, to solve this problem.

5. Come up with a few solutions to the problem, consider the pros and cons of each, and determine the one most likely to be a viable and practical solution.

6. Make sure your solution is likely to work. Get some data by testing a prototype or pilot testing the solution with a few people to see if your idea works as expected.

7. Also make sure that you, in particular, are able to implement this solution. If you can’t implement it by yourself, figure out what you will need help with, and find the people who can and will help you.

8. Make a plan for implementing your solution, including details for what steps you will take and what resources you will need.

9. Determine how you will know if your solution solves the problem, and set some goals and benchmarks.

10. Check your plan against any relevant guidelines or regulations. Get approval if necessary.

11. Start working on your solution, iterating and testing your suppositions and outcomes along the way.

So, did we just outline a science project proposal or a product strategy plan?

As dissimilar as medical science research and product strategy might seem, these are the steps necessary for both types of projects. And writing out an explicit plan for your approach will help ensure a successful outcome for either one. Writing a detailed description following the steps above will help others understand why you are working on your project, and why they should help you succeed, especially if they are in a position to provide resources or permission as a funding body or business stakeholder.

Bonus question: what is the most important step of the process?

Answer: step 2.

There are a lot of potential problems to solve out there, but they are not all equally important. Whether your goal is to step towards curing cancer or implement a social sharing platform, the problems that are worth solving are problems that are impacting someone’s daily life and quality of life, and that someone wants help solving. While these are sometimes the same people, more often they are not. A science funding body wants to fund projects to fulfil their mission, and a business wants to build products their customers will find helpful. In many cases, you need to explain why your problem is worthy of their investment, and how it will help them achieve their goals. If you have a good plan to follow each of these 11 steps, you’re well on your way to solving your problem and making the world a little bit of a better place, no matter which field you’re working in.