Why does your market sometimes reject the best solution?

12 07 2011

Keith Goffin & Chris van der Hoven wrote:

The QWERTY keyboard is 20%+ less efficient than the Dvorak keyboard and yet we all stick with QWERTY. The QWERTY keyboard was designed to slow typists down in the days when typewriters were mechanical and had long levers that got stuck if the typist was too quick.

So, what to do? Well, Everrit Rogers suggests that the problem is one of “diffusion” of these innovations. In other words, ‘find ways to make your idea stick’. Product and service developers need to sell their ideas and plans internally initially, and then make sure that their development will get market take-up.

Our experience has been that product and service developers rely too much on having the best possible service design or technical solution. However, ‘great technical solution + poor diffusion = product / service failure’. Another example is Betamax vs VHS (for those of you who can remember that far back). Sometimes, the best solution from your perspective is not the best solution from the customer’s perpective? That’s partly why incumbants in a market can be ‘disrupted’!

In our teaching we deal with this problem in two ways. We unpack the elements of diffusion – trialability, compatability, observability etc etc., and we focus on ‘internal diffusion’. In our workshops (Baseline to Breakthrough) we work on internal and external culture, on development team dynamics and behaviours / norms, and on maximising the chances that products and services will get market take-up.

We also use existing skills in in-project, and post-project reviews, to ensure that internal behaviours are contracted by the team to embed an innovative team culture. These techniques have implications for success and are related to the employee brand and your customer’s perceptions of your culture and innovativeness.

In the case of the Dvorak keyboard, the ‘costs’ for most of us to switch from QWERTY is simply too high. So the challenge is to recognise this and find a way to reduce / eliminate the switching cost to the user.




One response

11 10 2011
Nic Hunt

The examples used both share interesting similarities – performance surplus and ability to trial are both key elements.

A further area that would be of interest is the areas of “Market Architecture” an “infrastructural drag”. the DVORAK keyboard is a good example where the barriers to an individual trials are low (keyboard=£10) but supply chain complexity impacts creation of the opportunity to trial (architecture) and the enterprise wide adoption of the system is hampered by issues creating early adoption (eg – use in a business it is challenging to have a mixture of systems) – drag.
It feels like this exists in incremental improvements (DVORAK) more than breakthrough subsitutuions (IPAD interface)….. Interested to know if this is the case.

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