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Generating ideas and selecting among competing ideas are two of the most important determinants
of successful design. Good detail design will never rescue a poor concept.

A concept is an idea which provides a solution to the product design specification (PDS).

Can be a complete solution, a partial solution or a far out idea which at first glance looks like it is way
too wild. Many levels of detail are possible.

Idea generation is cheap. Doesn't cost much (time, resources) to generate lots of ideas, so do it.

A good concept generation process will produce ALL of the ideas.

One may get 100's which is great. Leave nothing for the follow on team. Leave nothing for your

Any project with a team of at least three should generate NO FEWER than 10 ideas, but 10 is an
embarassingly small number. 20-30 would be the MINIMUM to shoot for.

Concept generation is more than just brainstorming. Brainstorming is simply a method which can
generate some (but not all) concepts.

Start the formal concept generation phase AFTER the product design specification (PDS) is written.

Must have at least a rough idea of the PDS.Does not have to be a formal PDS.

You need some idea of what product is to do.

Waste of time/resources to spend significant time on concept generation without a PDS.

Use a structured process. Provides a guideline when things get bogged down. Be systematic, but not
too rigid

DOCUMENT the ideas

Even if you don't use them now, you may later.You need documentation for the selection phase.
Record on paper (or other quick recording means)

-Preliminary ideas generally take the form of

Quick hand sketch. A few trigger words. A picture of an existing device

Common mistakes in the generation process

All ideas generated before PDS drafted. Concept judgement mixes in with concept generation. Too
small a team involved in process (everyone must buy in). Too few ideas generated (leave yourself
wide open to competition). Ideas found in competing and related products not used. Not accepting
concepts which are partial solutions to PDS. Equating "brainstorming" with concept generation
Basic methods for concept generation

1. Review the PDS

2. Divide the Problem

3. Concept generation through Information Gathering

4. Concept generation through idea sessions


- Team members should agree on what the product is to do

- Should have some form of a written PDS at this point, perhaps just a bulleted list

- Must have a clear idea of the problem statement before proceeding.

- Must have a clear idea of customer needs before proceeding.


- Divide and subdivide into manageable chunks.

Granularity of layers depends on complexity

(new personal transport system different from

new screwdriver).

- Tackle idea generation one chunk at a time. Combine later.

- Divide by FUNCTION rather than by embodiment e.g. "sorting" vs weighing Be careful of

embedding possible solutions into the chunk descriptions; you don't want to skew the process.


- Avoid the "NIH" (not-invented-here) syndrome. Lots of existing ideas are available out there.

It's up to you to ferret them out.

Can be daunting, there's a lot of info out there.

Can combine existing ideas into a new idea to create

a unique product
Using others' (good) ideas is inexpensive, easy, quick

- Reverse engineering of competitive products

Direct competitors

Analagous products


- Should try both individual and group activities

Group activities alone do not maximize ideas

"Forced" individual activities guarantee that all

will participate

- Set aside sufficient amounts of time for these activities. Think about it. How often have you given
yourself the luxery of sitting in a quiet room with no interruptions for the space of several hours with
the sole task of generating ideas???

- If possible, include customers and other stakeholders in the process. Need to determine in advance
if they can make a useful contribution.


1. As many ideas as possible

2. Do not evaluate or rate for feasibility

3. Encourage participation by all

4. Record all ideas (efficient recording process)

5. No interruption.
- How to run a brainstorming session

* Appoint a facilitator/moderator

* Advertise the session in advance

* Advertise the topics in advance (the team has to have done the job of splitting the overall product
function into manageable subfunction tasks in advance).

* Don't have any one team do too much at a time. With many subtasks, split the team into several

* Each member buys a deck of 3"x5" index cards.

* The admission ticket to the brainstorming session is 10 ideas for each topic, one idea per card.
Enforce this policy rigidly; it's the only way to get team members to think of ideas on their own. These
preliminary ideas should be done without collaboration and without discussion before the group

* Have plenty of blank cards available.

* Start the session by going through the individual ideas. Tape on wall (or table if big enough)
organized by topic.

* In group session, go at it, one topic at a time. As new ideas are generated, record on a card and
tape on the wall (PostIt pads can also be used). Ideas can be documented with a quick sketch or no
more than 5 words

* Remember, no judgement, even if the idea is totally off base (it may trigger other ideas)

* Wild ideas are encouraged

* Record all ideas when done

- Ways to help your session (or individual activities) if it gets stuck (many involve paradigm shifts).

The facilitator should coordinate this.Think of analogous tasks. Shift the scale (twice as fast/slow,
heavy,as big as a house...). Combine ideas (addition and subtraction). Relax one spec (it can cost
$1,000,000). Imagine new technologies (novel materials, super-fast computer). Try relaxing (but don't
eliminate) physical laws. What if product were being used on the moon ...or under water. For 1-of
product, imagine if mass produced, for n-of product, imagine if building just one. Imagine inverted
functions (disassembly machine rather than assembly machine). Switch topics in mid-stream. Take a
(short) break

- Helps to categorize ideas. Can be done as a joint activity. Tape category headings to wall. Group
moves around room rearranging cards. Can overrule any other team member. Seemingly stochastic
activity will reveal fundamental sorting.

- Now you have 10's or hopefully 100's of ideas. Chances are that few will be a complete solution to
the PDS or subset task. Take the time to sort and combine to produce alternative concepts at about
the same level of detail and realization. For example, if Concept A is missing something to completely
satisfy the subtask, borrow from Concept B.
- The methods presented here are a suggestion. Each design team will customize to fit their own
personalities and needs.

- The steps will necessarily overlap. Don't worry.

- Go back and look the "Common Mistakes" sections above. Is your team guilty?

- If you take away nothing else, take away these four points:

(1) Do not generate or select concepts until at least a partial PDS is written

(2) Generate LOTS of ideas

(3) Resist temptation to run with first idea

(4) Use some type of rational, structured selection process

1. Identify critical issues (conflicts) first.
2. Generate ideas
3. Assess /classify /develop ideas
4. Filter, rank select
5. Develop selected concept/idea(s)
"Concept Selection" is picking the idea(s) which best satisfy the Product Design
Specification (PDS)

Stage in design process: After (1) understanding customer needs, (2) developing PDS, (3)
generating many concepts. Before detailed design.

You are selecting among choices constantly in design process. If you dont have many
choices to choose from at every stage of the design process, your process is bad.

Selection is an iterative process. (1) May need new or modified concepts, (2) May need
more info to proceed.

Think of concept selection as weeding out bad ideas, not as trying to pick the "best" idea.
The latter is too hard. Selection should be a narrowing process, not a competition.

Put yourself in customers shoes for the selection. No good if you pick based on your own
perceptions since you arent buying lots.

Wait a day or two after any branstorming sessions before running a selection process.

Stay flexible

You NEVER have enough information to do it properly...but often you cant wait.

- MUST follow a structured selection process. Ensures that:

* Customer needs drive process

* All criteria are considered

* Choices are documented

* Choices can be defended later in the design cycle

* Process immune from influence of champion

- The ways NOT to make selection decisions:

* "Gut feel"

* The boss says it has to be this way

* Let a single customer decide

* Team member who is strong champion of one idea

* Influence of experienced designer


Agree on the criteria by which concepts will be evaluated. Get entire team (including
sponsors) to buy in. Weight? Power? Time-to-Market? Cost? Comfort? Patentable?

Criteria should be CUSTOMER DRIVEN!

Present all concepts in same level of detail

- All drawn by the same hand

- All detailed to same level

If not, most "polished" concept will win


Good, informal method to get team members gut feel.

Give everyone on team 5 red dots and 5 green dots (Avery sticky dots, 3/4 in. dia.)

List (or sketch) concepts on large paper using dark, fat markers. Post on wall.

Members stick their green dots on concepts they like. Can use more than one dot per
concept. Use red dots for concepts which should be eliminated.

Not recommended for actual selection, but is a good way to see where people stand.

(Preferred Method) Matrix Pick "datum" concept

Three level comparisons of criteria to datum: +, 0, -

Use to eliminate/combine ideas

Very powerful method with appropriate mix of qualitative/quantitative



Weight criteria

Score concepts against criteria

Calculate weighted total score for each criteria

Problem 1: numbers imply a degree of confidence which cannot be justified.

Problem 2: results very sensitive to who does the scoring.

REFLECT (Always)

Do the results make sense?

Does the team feel comfortable with the results?

Does the project sponsor feel comfortable with the results? (VERY important)

If you did it again, would it come out differently?

Do you need more information to do it properly?

Do you have to select now because of project deadlines even if you dont have full

Mission Development
Statement Identify Establish Generate Select Test Set Plan
Customer Target Product Product Product Final Downstream
Needs Specifications Concepts Concept(s) Concept(s) SpecificationsDevelopment

Concept testing (to be distinguished from pre-test markets and test markets which may
be used at a later stage of product development research)[1] is the process of using surveys
(and sometimes qualitative methods ) to evaluate consumer acceptance of a new product
idea prior to the introduction of a product to the market It is important not to
confuse concept testing with advertising testing, brand testing and packaging testing; as is
sometimes done. Concept testing focuses on the basic product idea, without the
embellishments and puffery inherent in advertising.
It is important that the instruments (questionnaires) to test the product have a high quality
themselves. Otherwise, results from data gathered surveys may be biased by measurement
error. That makes the design of the testing procedure more complex. Empirical tests provide
insight into the quality of the questionnaire. This can be done by:

conducting cognitive interviewing. By asking a faction of potential-respondents about

their interpretation of the questions and use of the questionnaire, a researcher can verify
the viability of the cognitive interviewing.
carrying out a small pretest of the questionnaire, using a small subset of target
respondents. Results can inform a researcher of errors such as missing questions, or
logical and procedural errors.
estimating the measurement quality of the questions. This can be done for instance
using test-retest, quasi-simplex,or mutlitrait-multimethod models. predicting the
measurement quality of the question. This can be done using the software Survey
Quality Predictor (SQP).

Concept testing in the new product development (NPD) process is the concept generation stage.
The concept generation stage of concept testing can take on many forms. Sometimes concepts
are generated incidentally, as the result of technological advances. At other times concept
generation is deliberate: examples include brain-storming sessions, problem detection surveys
and qualitative research. While qualitative research can provide insights into the range of
reactions consumers may have, it cannot provide an indication of the likely success of the new
concept; this is better left to quantitative concept-test surveys.
In the early stages of concept testing, a large field of alternative concepts might exist, requiring
concept-screening surveys. Concept-screening surveys provide a quick means to narrow the
field of options; however they provide little depth of insight and cannot be compared to a
normative database due to interactions between concepts. For greater insight and to reach
decisions on whether or not pursue further product development, monadic concept-testing
surveys must be conducted.
Frequently concept testing surveys are described as either monadic, sequential monadic or
comparative. The terms mainly refer to how the concepts are displayed:
1.) Monadic. The concept is evaluated in isolation. 2.) Sequential monadic. Multiple concepts are
evaluated in sequence (often randomized order). 3.) Comparative. Concepts are shown next to
each other. 4.) Proto-monadic. Concepts are first shown in sequence, and then next to each
"Monadic testing is the recommended method for most concept testing. Interaction effects and
biases are avoided. Results from one test can be compared to results from previous monadic
tests. A normative database can be constructed."[7] However, each has its specific uses and it
depends on the research objectives. The decision as to which method to use is best left to
experience research professionals to decide, as there are numerous implications in terms of how
the results are interpreted.