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The Donner Party Travel Agency ... & Product Development ...

Jun 21, 2018 11:53:01 AM / by Travis Jacobs

In the spring of 1846, a group of nearly 90 emigrants left Springfield, Illinois, and headed west. Led by brothers Jacob and George Donner, the group attempted to take a new and supposedly shorter route to California. They soon encountered rough terrain and numerous delays, and they eventually became trapped by heavy snowfall high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Purportedly reduced to cannibalism to survive through the winter, only half of the original group reached California the following year. 

 

History Channel ... The Donner Party

 

Product development projects are just like the Donner Party, they start late with limited resources … they ignore warnings from others who have gone before them …  They encounter unexpected delays … They are following a guide who may be a little bit too inexperienced … a little too ignorant … and somewhat arrogant … 

 

They take “shortcuts” which turn out to take longer … based on incorrect information … and treacherous terrain … turns out to be much more difficult than they planned …  they are  short on resources … they encounter insurmountable obstacle … natural phenomenon which they don’t understand … natural anomalies which are rare and sporadic … but can be catastrophic …

 

The Donner Party situation could have been completely avoided … ignorance and arrogance played a part for sure … as well poor planning … “bad luck” … but they also made quite a few mistakes … which turned out to be fatal … for about half of the party … maybe the biggest mistake was not listening and proceeding on blind ignorance and arrogance

 

Listen to the experts and avoid the fate of the Donner Party on your next product development project.

 

Or you can blaze ahead based upon ignorance and arrogance …

 

Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School Estimates that 80 percent of new products fail …

 

Product development projects these days resemble a modern day Donner Party trek …

 

This is a story of a travel agency run like a product development project …

 

WELCOME TO THE DONNER PARTY TRAVEL AGENCY … WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU?

 

So 4 people walk into the Donner Party travel agency and ask to travel from Springfield Illinois to San Francisco California …

 They only have $10 each to travel with and need to be there by tomorrow …

Just like developing a new product … we have no time and no money and we need it done by tomorrow

 

We'd like to travel from Springfield Illinois to San Francisco California …

We're somewhat on a limited budget and a very tight schedule ...

... What's your budget, might I ask?

Well ... we don't have much money ...

... Understood ...

… so we'd like to travel as cheaply as possible

 

Can we get there for $10? … By Tomorrow?

 

Let me show you what we have ...

 

used worn out sandals

This is the economy option … For $0.25 cents a day we can rent you these used and worn out sandals … you can walk there …

 

… How long will the sandals take to get us there?

… Depends on how fast you can walk … About 40 days …

 

That’s too long … we have to be there by tomorrow!!

  

Just like with product development  … The economy option takes too long !!

 

DSCF4619

Let’s see … We have a rusty huffy 10 speed … with no seat …

 

For $5 a day you can rent this bike …

 

How long will that take?

Again … Depends on how fast you can peddle … About 11 days ..

Still too long … we have to be there tomorrow!! 

Are you even listening to me!!??

 

Still not fast enough …. Just like with product development …

 

DucttapeBoats06

 

I don’t suppose you want to go to Mexico?  It fits in your budget …

 

This boat can be rented for $10 … the paddles and lifejackets can be rented for $2 a day

For an extra $2 you get to keep the boat as a souvenir …

 

Additional Extras

Waterproof spray $1

Duct Tape $2

 

“We’ll be just fine … stop complaining … ROW FASTER … “

 

“NO! The Boat IS NOT SINKING … STOP SAYING THAT … “

 

leaky-boat_1442059i

We are having a Sale on Trips to Hawaii!

For $5 a day we offer a canoe with a tiny hole in it … the paddle is $1 a day … no lifejacket available

Bailing bucket, Duct Tape, & Water Sealant not included

 

Trying to develop a product on the cheap is just like buying an old, used up row boat with a “small hole” in the bottom” … But it fits within the budget …

 

Ford Pinto Rusted

Ford Pinto Catastrophe

 

Up next we have a 1974 Rusty Ford Pinto,  insurance is mandatory with this option.

This is $20 a day …. We’re not responsible for any thing that happens … at all … whatsoever …

How long will it take in the Pinto … 45 hours … as long as it doesn’t catch on fire* … I wouldn’t worry about it though …

 

… Hmm … That’s 24 hours longer than I scheduled … I didn’t want to spend that much either …

 

Fire extinguisher not included*

Fireproof racing suit not included*

 

It Always takes too long … Just like with product development …

To make matters worse ... we buy cheap tools that only cause more problems than they solve …

 

USC40TOS072A021001

The Toyota 4Runner is an excellent option to travel cross country …

Lots of room …

Holds lots of stuff …

If you drive straight through you can make it 45 hours …

 

The 4Runner is $200 a day …

 

$200 A DAY !!!!  THAT’S OUTRAGEOUS !!! WE DON’T WANT TO PAY THAT MUCH!!

 

… is gas & food included?

No, it’s not … sorry …

… For that price I expect gas and food to be included!

… And that’s still too long!  I need to be there as soon as possible!!

 

A reasonable option … That fits somewhat into our timetable … is always too expensive … just like product development.

 

southwest-737-max-8-cgi-680x365_c

Well in that case … if you need to be there by tomorrow …

The Boeing 737 is the fastest option to get you there in the timeframe you have specified …

I suggest flying …. Let’s see … There are 4 of you traveling … is that right?

… Yes, that’s right

I’ll see what I can find …

The soonest flight available leaves the day after tomorrow … each ticket is $500 each … will that work ?

No that won’t work!! Are you stupid or something … or just hard of hearing?

What part of “we need to be there by tomorrow do you not understand?”

 

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Here is the fastest option available … A Gulfstream private jet … chartered just for you …

It leaves in two hours …  

It’s a direct flight … total travel time is approximately 6 hours

Would you like me to book that for you?

YES …. YES …. YES

Great … how would you like to pay?

Visa … no problem …

The total is $30,000 …

WHAT !!!!

We can only afford $10 …. $20 at the most person !!!!

 

This option gets you there in the timeframe you specified …

But it’s too expensive …

 

Just like with product development ..

 

No problem … Have you seen our sandal options?

 

used worn out sandals

Let’s see … 4 people … 40 days … $0.25 cents a day …

That’ll be $40 … on a Visa ?

 

We only have $20 and we have to be there by tomorrow!!

 

YOU AREN’T EVEN LISTENING TO ME!!!!  

 

I’m sorry … those are the options we have available …

 

Which one would you like?

 

Just like with product development …

 

The Sandals & the Huffy … The option that fits within our budget … takes too long …

The Gulfstream private Jet … The option that fits within our timetable … costs too much …

The Ford Pinto … The option that is close to our timetable and budget …  is of very poor quality and will only cause more problems than it solves … only we don’t realize it

 

at the moment … Just like the Donner Party … They didn’t know what they didn’t know … until they knew … then it was already too late …

 

Just like with traveling cross country … product development is a balancing act where trade offs must be made.

 

Most people when developing a new product have a sandal budget and a gulfstream schedule.  That never works out well for anyone and usually ends in catastrophe … just like the Donner Party.

 

Trying to develop a product using inexperienced amateurs and cheap tools … the Ford Pinto approach …  … due to a limited budget and short timetable … will turn out the same way the Ford Pinto did in a rear end collision … a lot damage and a fiery inferno … in the middle of nowhere … stranded … without resources and nothing to show for all of your hard work … Just like the Donner Party

 

The only two viable options are the Toyota 4 Runner and Southwest …

 

Just like with product development … Choose high quality tools and an experienced crew that have done it before … more than once …

 

You really don’t want to hire a pilot that has only read about flying before …

“It’s the same thing he says”

When the shit hits the fan you really want an experienced pilot that

“has been there and done that”

 

sully too

Captain Sullenberger “Sully” … US Airways Flight 1549 … Landed a AirBus A320 on the Hudson … Alll 155 passengers aboard survived … After striking a flock of geese shortly after takeoff and losing both engines.

 

The truth is we can’t afford to release bad products to the market, competition is fierce and innovation is everywhere. Long design cycles are a thing of the past, customers want innovation and have a low tolerance for bad products. 

 

Projects fail because companies can’t get out of their own way and end up shooting themselves in the foot repeatedly … then blame others for their pain and stupidity.

 

We help leaders solve problems, teams work together more effectively and companies to get products to market faster with higher quality in a short time for less cost with more innovation.

 

Shortcuts make for very long days …

 

We don’t know what we don’t know until we know … ya know?

 

What problem can we solve for you today?

 

 Let's Talk

 

Topics: Product Development, Product Design, Project Management, Leadership, Engineering, Simulation, Management, Communication, SmallBusiness, Design, StartUps

Travis Jacobs

Written by Travis Jacobs

Travis is the president of JA Simulations, a product design & development firm in Denver Colorado. We help clients solve problems & get to market faster with innovative & high quality products

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