Set-Based Thinking: Frontloading the PD Process
Dr Göran Gustafsson is a Senior Lecturer at the Chalmers University of Technology and a Member of the Board at LPPDE. His current research interests are lean product development in general, and the capture, generalization, presentation and reuse of data and other knowledge for product development purposes in particular. At Lean Innovation Forum 2016, Dr Gustafsson spoke about the importance of frontloading in product development, and how this can be achieved through generation of knowledge early in the development process.
Traditionally product development has focused on selecting one concept at the early stage and then further develop it. This perhaps is what might feel more natural: focusing all our efforts in one direction so no time is wasted on resources eliminating many ideas that will never make it to the market anyway.
On the other hand, Set-Based Thinking could be considered the opposite approach to this latter traditional way as it emphasizes the importance of basing decisions on facts, investigating several concepts at the beginning which might delay the decision of which one to finally choose but avoiding high waste and cost of changing the product at a later stage.
The success of this approach, however, rests on the hope that the chosen concept is a good one, or at least feasible. But many projects encounter problems because this turned out not to be the case, and/or gaps in the knowledge needed to finish it emerged and could not be bridged. This causes severe loopbacks that jeopardize the project’s time and cost plans.
Set-Based Thinking is a very different, not to say the opposite approach to the Product Development which emphasizes the importance of basing decisions on facts. It amounts to investigating several or many concepts and delays the decision of which one to finally choose. This may seem counterintuitive at first but has proven to be the superior method. It is more efficient to have a wide scope in the beginning and learn about the properties of the alternative concepts to be able to successively eliminate inferior ones on the basis of knowledge instead of guesswork.
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