How to make better products: We listen and learn 

The Importance of Research & Development 

Recently, a co-worker and I had an animated discussion about why we spend so much of our company’s time and money doing research and development (R&D). And thinking about that brought us to consider the best way to do R&D. 

The answer to the first question seemed obvious. There are a lot of great products in the world, which have made people’s lives better and easier. But to meet new challenges that arise, or to improve people’s lives beyond where they are presently, how can we succeed without doing research and experimenting with possible solutions, scientifically, until we find a better way? We agreed that this is the genesis of R&D.  

Input is Everything 

Understanding the best way to do R&D is another question. I suppose that’s more personal. Perhaps some people can go into a vacuum, away from all others, including end users, and come up with a better technology. But we decided that’s not our path. 

At Lightspeed, we go the other direction. We get lots of input. First we look at all the possible new technologies and ask ourselves, how we can implement different ones into our product? But the real key is to go one step further and ask people — our potential customers — questions, and then, armed with their answers, roll up our sleeves and co-create the next great thing for them.  

Testing in Real Life Situations 

For years we’ve tested products in real-life situations (classrooms) to substantiate and increase the value we provide customers. Two of our major speaker technologies were improved enormously using this shared research with real users. Another new product we’re developing now really came out of our deep dialogue and technology implementation trials with real-world users. 

We sit, get input, listen, learn, go back to test ideas, tweak the technology, and ultimately come up with better products. That’s our path: listen, observe, learn and improve. 

What do you think about this method? Is it correct? Or is there a better way?