How We Make Stuff Now: A book review by Bob Morris

How We Make Stuff Now: Turn Ideas into Products That Build Successful Businesses
Jules Pieri
McGraw-Hill Education (April 2019)

How to evaluate a potential product or service, then identify market opportunities for it

Most ideas about new products or services are abandoned. With rare exception, those that succeed either fill an unmet need or are significantly better than what had been available. The research department at 3M, for example, developed a glue that really didn’t stick very well. Today, Post-it products generate billions in sales. Not everyone can complete a lengthy and difficult, often discouraging process of evaluating an idea, refining it, determining its market potential, and then launching the given product or service. Jules Pieri has worked with more than 3,000 companies to help them complete that process. She’s been there, done it, and helped thousands of others to do it.

In this book, she shares from wide as well as deep experience what she has learned about HOW, especially the dos and don’ts. For example, she explains the basic components of design thinking in Chapter Two. They are:

o Identifying opportunity
o Goals and constraints
o Research
o Ideation
o Rough prototyping
o Advanced Prototypes

Pieri also shares her thoughts about especially important design considerations. They are:

o Human factors and ergonomics
o User experience (UX)
o Materials and finishes
o Manufacturability, durability, and cost effectiveness
o Form and function

With regard to intellectual property protection, she reviews these five:

1. Nondisclosure Agreements (NDAs)
2. Copyrights
3. Trademarks
4. Trade secrets
5. Patents

One of the most valuable reader-friendly devices that Pieri uses is a set of micro-case studies in each chapter, included to illustrate some key points. For example, in Part 1, Chapter 3: Blue Apple, Peeps, Nuheara, BRUW, The Butterie, Force of Nature, and Warm Mud; Chapter 4, Flic Button, Cleverhood, Guardian Belts, and The Negg; and in Chapter 5, Click n Curl, Daytrader, Livliga, and Ooni. It is helpful to keep in mind that each of the current Fortune 500 companies was once an idea that became startup. However, very few acorns become oak trees.

I suggest that Jules Pieri’s Conclusion be read first before working your way through her lively and eloquent narrative. Why? It provides an excellent context, a frame of reference, for two separate but interdependent questions that you may have in mind: “Is my idea good enough?” and “Am I cut out for being an entrepreneur?” I agree with her: “Every idea seems brilliant until you start researching it objectively.” Her book enables you to do that thoroughly, each step of the way. Only then can you properly answer a third question: “Proceed or bail?”

When you are enlightened and reach that point, advice from Henry Ford may prove helpful: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

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