Applying Cooper's Seven Problems and Pitfalls of New Product Development to Firearms Instruction

Robert G. Cooper's book Winning at New Products, 3rd Ed (ISBN 0-7382-0463-3) is an interesting read for those of us making new stuff, but I wondered how his seven weaknesses could be applied to firearms instruction. If you want to read about it in the book, see the end of Chapter 2.

Here are the seven weaknesses:

  1. A lack of market orientation
  2. Poor quality of execution
  3. Moving too quickly
  4. Not enough up-front homework
  5. A lack of product value for the customer
  6. No focus, too many projects, and a lack of resources
  7. The lack of a systemic new product process with discipline

At first blush it's pretty easy to see how to recognize these pitfalls. I have been through them myself. Not identifying the right target market is self-explanatory. Not teaching the class well (execution) is easy to notice as well. We at Northwest Safety and Firearms Education (NWSAFE) figured that one out right away. “Moving too quickly” emphasizes the need to actually prepare for a class by learning a lesson plan and making (and sticking to) a budget. The up-front homework primarily consists of preparing the student for the class to ensure their attendance and payment. The “too many projects” bug has bitten us a few time, but now that we have generated enough instructors who can execute on almost any lesson it is less of a problem.

We do fight the lack of resources issue all the time. People think that firearms instructors who do it for fun get rich in the process. That's hardly true. I did a big study on it a few months ago and found that most volunteer firearms instructors are in the hole and at best break even after they have been at it for a while. The places to make money, and even then it's not a lot, is when you have an advanced curriculum and you own your own range that has other ways to support itself. The public and member-run ranges get antsy about us teaching there a lot and they do charge us for the privilege.

The last is the most interesting. “A systemic new product process,” to me, means the development of new courses. NWSAFE relies on NRA's training department to do much of the course development, while we tweak it to work with our resources, making sure we meet the requirements. One course that we've been waiting for is to teach private citizens about concealed carry. Such a course has been in development inside NRA for over seven years. It has been announced to the senior trainers more than once, and withdrawn. Perhaps it is NRA that needs to learn new product development.

I have suffered and overcome some of these pitfalls, but I face a new one not on Cooper's list. Burn-out. Between my returning to school, and having a family with at least one school-age kid, I have very little time to dedicate to my firearms pursuits anymore. My latest project is building a range on my own property so I don't have to drive an hour to shoot.

We'll see how it goes.

Josh Poulson

Posted Wednesday, Sep 15 2004 09:27 AM

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