“Perfect” the Enemy of the Good?

by Thomas Frasher on August 28, 2009


Arthur Schopenhauer once wrote “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.” For the most part this is true. This article attempts to explore if genius is necessary to succeed in a technology business.
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s I worked to build one of the very first voicemail machines. It was elegant, interfaced with many different PBX systems and even main telephone switches. It was an attractive, well built, exceptionally engineered device, built to telecom NEBS, U.L. and C.S.A specifications; very safe and very reliable.

Our technology was miles ahead of our competition and was arguably the leading edge.

We got our clock cleaned by a competitor that was merely “good enough”.

Our competition’s cost of acquisition and ownership was less than ours, maintenance was simple and the machine was smaller. More importantly the machine “looked” like every other piece of equipment that the customers were already using. It was a tragic thing for those of us that had spent years developing this genius device. We were too far ahead of our customers.

If you have an innovative product or service that is too far in front of what your customers can see as a possibility you have no market. If you are able to market to your customers, setting a new standard, you have pulled your customer forward, and you will have a market to yourself for a while. If, on the other hand, you haven’t educated your customer well and helped them understand your product, then your market will not exist and indeed your competition may use you as a springboard, taking advantage of your efforts and relieving you of your profits.

The further you are ahead of what your customer can see as a possibility, the more you will have to do to teach your customer about the future this product helps them build. The first part of doing is closing your mouth and listening to your customer. Listen for the opinions and biases they already have. You have to learn to see the world through their eyes, this means listening. After you have listened and learned, create a story to help them see the new possibilities your product or service will be for them from your eyes. The better you do that, the easier the customer can see your new innovation in their future.

Something to remember: your story has to be complete, anything you leave out your customer will not, it will be a detraction from your product or service that makes it easier for your competition to encroach.

There is still a place for innovation beyond your customer’s site, it gives you a road map to create a strategy to move along in creating new products that lead to your innovation and beyond.

So while genius hits its unseen targets, talent must reach targets just far enough to innovate within range of the customer’s view of their future.

  1. Listen to and learn from your customer,
  2. Create your innovation,
  3. build your road map,
  4. listen to your customer,
  5. Have Fun,
  6. Repeat over from step #1

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