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Torrence's law of product development  RSS feed

 
Ann Torrence
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When I worked in academia (engineering and computer science), I observed loads of research that could have resulted in commercially viable projects. Few, if any, did. Why?

The academic mindset (and the drivers behind it, like getting students' theses done and research papers published) is that if it works well enough to prove the concept, they move on to the next concept. That is what it's like working with true genius, if it worked once to prove their idea, they aren't interested in making it work 100% of the time, they are interested in the next question that comes to their brilliant minds. I estimate these ideas are on average 30% of the way through the R&D process to a MARKETABLE product.

So the university tech transfer people would be notified of a potential patent from the 30% baked idea, and go shop licensing of the idea to industry. Rarely did this work out. Why?

The industry mindset is such that, even though they see themselves as innovators, they aren't investing in the brute engineering work to take an idea to a finished product. The corporate profit cycle doesn't reward long-term investments. They need to show a profit to the higher-ups in the next reporting period. They might be willing to invest enough money to bring an idea that is 90% baked to market.

Torrence's law: the money is made (and lost) in the 30-90% spread. You can't get a research grant to fund it. Industry generally doesn't want to pay for it. So good technology languishes.

I suspect the same is as true in the permaculture space as academia. Understanding and overcoming that 60% development gap is even problematic in the disconnect within large-scale industry in their engineering and marketing divisions.

One of the most useful books I ever read on going from a proven concept to a marketable product was Marketing High Technology by William Davidow. I see you can pick up a used copy for 1ยข plus shipping on Amazon. By now the examples are pretty dated, but the process of going from a widget that works on the lab bench to a product that actually solves a customer's need doesn't just happen in the laboratory. It's a mindset, a process, a conversation with end users. It's the regulatory hoops. It's writing the manual. It's making a product with buttons and switches that can be pressed 10,000 times without breaking. It's making a product that fits through a standard door. It's understanding how someone that is not you is going to use and misuse it. Ergonomics. Design. It's making something you can stand looking at day after day.

Bridging the 60% gap, that's where the money is.
 
R Scott
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I always saw it as an extension the 80-20 rule.

And Paul's rule comes into play, but corporate culture and stockholder pressure won't tolerate a 99% failure rate to get that home run product.
 
Ann Torrence
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R Scott wrote:
And Paul's rule comes into play, but corporate culture and stockholder pressure won't tolerate a 99% failure rate to get that home run product.

Which rule is that? There are quite a few to keep track of, LOL.
 
R Scott
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That you can do a hundred things and only one of them will work, but you can't know which one ahead of time so just do them all...

Paraphrase because I can't remember either.
 
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