We talked to Chris Flynn, founder at Flynn product design about next gen product development and he had the following to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Chris Flynn: We are all doing well. I have a young family and a new baby on the way, so this year has been especially challenging. We did actually fall ill in March with COVID-19 symptoms, which lasted for 5 weeks. So that was not much fun, but we came through it and consider ourselves lucky. The toll in the UK especially has been much higher than expected. So our thoughts go out to those around the globe who have lost loved ones.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Flynn Product Design.
Chris Flynn: I would say I was pretty much born to be a product designer. Once I had figured out, I would never drive a Formula 1 car or be an astronaut! Childhood curiosity and observation are things I always kept alive. I studied Product Design Engineering at the University of Westminster and basically felt, “where has this been all my life” Working in industrial design is like coming home. On leaving London, I travelled the world and worked in Europe and Australia with Electrolux for a brief time. I founded Flynn Product Design in 2003 after a few years of freelancing. I basically wanted to apply my own vision to supporting entrepreneurship; one of the reasons our Product Design for startups workshop is so fundamental to our approach. My observation was to many existing touchpoints for Inventors, and Entrepreneurs were too passive and not challenging their clients enough on the front end. We developed our unique approach to product development.
How does Flynn Product Design innovate?
Chris Flynn: Flynn is an innovation consultancy, so breaking that down into philosophy, we first ensure that the right questions are being asked by the client and us. Conceptually to innovate, you need to travel somewhere new in your mind or through a process. The basis of going to that new place is a stripping back of the problem. Often, we see people tackle innovation iteratively, that is, bringing through all the observations. Perhaps they just want to beat a competitor, so they often inherit some of the potentially flawed assumptions that exist in the products in that sector. I.e., many existing solutions have assumed things are true. We take a first-principles approach and try to reduce assumptions completely. Then for us, at least, creative innovation is a very natural process. It is sort of like visiting the future mentally and bringing that back to the now. The overriding intention is perpetual evolution and improvement, so one of our core fundamentals is seeing this process as Darwinian evolution. Fail fast is a buzz word, but this works well when conceptualizing and validating your design thinking.
Different inputs = Different outputs
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Chris Flynn: In March, we answered a call from our local NHS hospitals on a component shortage for their C-Pap machines. We rapidly engineered some replacement connectors, which we made available for assessment by the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital. We created them from brief to parts in 48 hours to save lives and offered our services to the NHS as a whole at no charge for COVID-19 assistance. We have been fortunate to have some super clients who have stuck with us through these challenging times. We are very keen to offer continued expertise in the medical device sector, which COVID-19 has seen prosper. The lockdown scenarios have impacted people and businesses, increasing uncertainty. We feel our lean model of consultancy has enabled us to be highly adaptive, which we see increasingly as a marker of success for the business moving forwards. Our process has continued through most of this year, largely unaffected as we deliver new and exciting projects.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Chris Flynn: We had to pull away some of our business development resources to active outreach in supporting the NHS in 2020. We went to battle stations as the situation in the UK has been severe. We were happy to help, but this does impact the business. Growth to many UK businesses this year is slow, and I don’t think we have escaped that trend. Fortunately, the way we are set up with our teams, we didn’t have to make any critical choices or let people go.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Chris Flynn: This is a fantastic question. I would describe myself being completely honest as not great with stress. Somehow it impacts my health physically.
2020 has taught me a thing or two about stress. Working from home on some days with a 20-month-old running around screaming while you’re trying to run a product design consultancy does test your nerve. I focused more on things I have come across in the past but not really got into, Mindfulness practice and read the power of now by Eckhart Tolle. This was challenging perceptual, but it actually makes a lot of sense to me now.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Chris Flynn: The UK has many Product Design Consultancy for the size of a pretty small country in the scheme of things. Our competitors will be those top-level consultancies that offer bespoke consultation to SMEs and Entrepreneurs’, those select few who do not see churn in their business and see the opportunity to collaborate in such a fascinating and rewarding sector as Industrial Design. We recognize the work of people like DCA and the Alloy, and there are quite a few to mention.
Your final thoughts?
Chris Flynn: We are very pleased to have been interviewed by your publication. As a footnote to your core readers who startup, invest in, or currently run product-based business. We would like to recommend our Product Design for Start-ups workshop. Our considered approach is going to help reduce your risk while you explore with us the true product potential. We would love to hear from your readers about any of their new product development projects.
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