From Concept to Market: How to Design for Impact

This week, we’re happy to introduce a new Question-and-Answer blog format – where Paul Polak will post video answers to questions submitted on social media, for others to reference. If you have a question you’d like Paul to answer please tweet us at @OutofPoverty or e-mail Paul at whatworks@whyworks.com.

Responding to Martin Herrndorf’s (@Herrndorf) blog post titled All That Glitters is Good on NextBillion.net, (TWITTER USER: WE NEED THE NAME STILL) asked this great question via Twitter:

“How do we commercialize university and do-it-yourself projects for the Other 90%?

Too much sits in research.”

Paul Polak’s video response is below:

“The Appropriate Technology movement failed because it was peopled by technocrats rather than hard-headed entrepreneurs, and technologies were designed to solve technological problems rather than being designed for the market.”

“The same problem exists when technologies are designed in design courses in universities, rather than being designed to fit into markets, and markets that are scalable. In order to make things work with practical impact they have to be designed for the market from the very beginning. You can design a product that is a breakthrough in plowing, if it’s a superior plow – but if it costs a thousand dollars nobody is going to buy it.

The first thing is, you have to find the right price point to make your product commercially attractive – for your customer, for your supply chain, and for you as the business. Secondly, you have to design a branding and marketing strategy: People in developing countries are much more likely to buy something that has an aspirational brand attached to it than something that doesn’t. Next, you have to design something that can fit into a last-mile supply chain; and lastly you have to design a last-mile supply chain that fits the product; because quite often in villages in developing countries there are none of these things.

So design, to be practical and to have an impact, has to go far beyond the design of a beautiful technology. The technology has to be designed to fit marketplace demand. You have to design a marketing and distribution strategy and a last-mile delivery strategy. The technology itself has to be designed and field-tested to fit into a scalable system last-mile marketing and distribution.

That way, if you build scale and marketability into the process of designing the product, you’re much more likely to have a practical impact.”

Submit your questions to @OutofPoverty on Twitter or email Paul at whatworks@whyworks.com!

Thanks for watching and stay tuned for more Q&A vlogs from Paul.

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