Stop your project from derailing!

Stop your project from derailing!

Invention Vs Engineering

More often than not, we come across clients who have been forced to take the tough decision to part ways with the consultancy they’ve worked with from the beginning. Usually, this happens because the project goes off course, costing the client valuable time and money.

So, what stops a project running away with the wind and ending up a train wreck?


To answer this question, it’s important to understand the difference between the two main staples of any project: engineering and invention. Furthermore, the order in which engineering and invention take place influence a projects ability to run smoothly.


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       Both set out to achieve the same result, they just go about it in different ways.


“Engineering is based on previously established scientific and mathematical principles.” Whereas “invention typically establishes the bases for those scientific and mathematical principles.” In short, if product innovations did not take place, engineers would not have anything to prove or disprove. Engineering provides an opportunity to an inventor to establish proof of concept, thus enabling the client to initiate and engage with the design process.

‘Proof of concept’ – An important phrase, and an integral part of the 4-step innovation process. An evidence-based experiment or pilot project which demonstrates that a design concept is feasible.

The illustration above visualises the 4-step innovation process and shows where proof of concept slots in. Without ample market research and proof of concept– what would the point be in spending vast sums of money and time on something which isn’t guaranteed to succeed at market?

It’s no wonder NPD comes to an abrupt halt when a successful solution for a critical aspect of the product remains elusive!


Regardless of what you’re trying to achieve, the NPD process consists of creating a solution that previously did not exist. Consequently, it is easy to confuse what can be created using existing scientific and mathematical principals with what needs to be invented through trial and error.

By jumping the gun and engineering a ‘manufacture ready’ product prior to evidence based testing, the outcome is inevitable – the project will either stall or fail altogether. The detail design stage (DEVELOP) requires extensive resources and carries severe consequences if stalled or major changes are needed. Therefore, it’s imperative to prove your concept before embarking on the detail design phase. This requires a cautiously planned brief armed with key deliverables at each stage.

Back to the original question – How do you stop your innovation project from running away with the wind?

Ensure enough time and resource is spent researching, testing, and ensuring an invention is worthy of progressing onto the DEVELOP stage. The bulk of cost is found within the DEVELOP stage when the concept begins to be detailed.

It’s reasonable to expect that “if an invention does prove viable, it’s highly unlikely to take the form originally intended and anticipated by other aspects of the product’s design. Consequently, when the invention is finally ready, extensive design changes to the components are required, consuming valuable time and resources.”

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