The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Sometimes Being Slower Wins The Race.
January 24, 2007, 1:30 pm
Filed under: Comment

Newest technological gadget for the modern sex-worker

I was talking to a rather successful technology developer last night [Hello Dave!] and we had a bit of a disagreement [quelle surprise!] because I didn’t agree that it was always right for a company to jump on emerging technological advancements.

Of course a ‘first mover’ strategy can have its advantages but history shows that quite often a more conservative approach to innovation – based on mixing old and new technologies – is even more successful.

[A perfect example of this is Apple … in the late 80’s/early 90’s when they were obsessed with ‘innovation’, they created some of the World’s most expensive disasters. However today – with a philosophy of ‘trend exploitation’ [also known as techno-evolution] they are enjoying the most profitable and successful times of their lives.]

Anyway Dave said that ‘disruptive innovation’ was the most powerful way for him to create market leadership – however my view was that there were just as many examples of ‘second mover’ [or ‘fast follower’] strategies that have been equally effective for brands.

So I thought I’d look a bit more at this and found business writer, Nicholas Carr, had a different view to both of us.

In Carr’s opinion, the most successful strategy may be something he calls ‘Third Mover’ – the fusion of old and new technologies resulting in ‘consumer embraced technology’.


Well he believes that consumers are reluctant to embrace anything that is too different, so by the time the ‘innovation’ has been established in the minds of the masses,that is the best time to enter the market and exploit the opportunity.

Now whilst I can see what he is saying, I am not sure this is strictly true … however I do appreciate that companies often get seduced by the thought of being an ‘innovator’ when being a ‘conservative innovator’ may actually be more financially rewarding. Infact, you could argue it’s even more effective than being a category pioneer because R&D investment and Educational Communication will be dramatically reduced and you have the benefit of offering consumers a product that is not beset with ‘bugs’ … something inherent in nearly all new technology.

Lets be honest, all the above opinions have merit … and I think you know I am a huge believer in ideas and technological innovation [I just hate it when it’s done because a company wants to flex its ‘innovation muscle’ rather than address some consumer need/want] … it’s just I believe this ever-present-attitude of ‘new always wins’ is something misguided and sometimes, irresponsible.

And yes, I do realise the ad industry is particularly bad for obsessively embracing the ‘new’ … which is why planners should not only inspire creativity to flow in all directions, but also ensure the consumer [and client] needs are naturally addressed within the resulting communication idea

It’s not about doing what’s ’new’ … it’s about doing what’s right but always in an enthusiastic, motivating and entertaining way. 

Carr, N. (2004) Bridging the breakthrough gap. STRATEGY & BUSINESS (USA)

13 Comments so far
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Was it Dave Peters you were speaking to? Say hello if it was.

You’re right, too many people are all too happy to let go of the past to hungrily embrace the brave new World. I think it’s because humanity is driven by a need for continual discovery and excitement which results in us sometimes blindly ignoring the very obvious warning signs. We do it time and time again, from the Goldrush to the .com to Enron and you’d think we’d learn but I guess greed is the mother of motivation.

That said, I do embrace innovation and evolution, it is how we develop, I just think it should not be done at the expence of things that have continually proved to be effective. It’s about blending, not ignoring.

Talking of blending, I seem to remember you presenting a very similar view to Apple about 8 years ago? With this in mind, I have to ask whether this is evolution of your thought process or simply stagnation? 🙂

Comment by Pete

The one and only Dave Peters …

I guess all I am saying is that there is never just one way to approach ‘growth’ and yet where technology [and commmunication] industries are concerned – the overiding philosophy seems to be ‘be first to win’ which is plainly not always true – especially if you take the time to really understand the underlying needs and wants of consumers vs the potential benefit of the technology on their lives.

Now watch the argumentative masses start quoting that bloody Henry T. Ford again! Ha.

Comment by Rob

I think the iPod is the perfect example of what you mean here Rob.

For me, I had thousands of songs on my computer that were useless to me whenever I left the room. The same with nearly everyone i knew at highschool. MP3 players were around, but they weren’t practical. Apple, like you said, understood the needs of consumers and created the product for us. Later models weren’t focused on trying to cram more and more technology inside, rather they focused on evolving the features they already had, stretching them to make them better, more usable.

Apple were smart in not wasting time over technologising (did i just invent a word?) something that was successful because it was already simple. They kept making what they had “better” at what it did, rather than make it into something that might threaten or confuse its users.

In relation, I think this is where Sony might have shot itself in the foot with the PS3; trying to give us too much of something we aren’t comfortable with. But then that is the risk I spose…

Comment by Age

Absolutely … the real power of iPOD [apart from the beauty and simplicity of the product] was that iTunes legitimised and unified the growing emergence of digital music … which [thanks to iPod] then allowed people to unify, upload and listen to their favourite tracks wherever, whenever and however.

It wasn’t about creating digital music, it was exploiting the trend that was already becoming more established.

iPOD was not the first to market [and still isn’t the best in market] but by understanding the underlying needs and wants of consumers [both tactical, practical and emotional] they were able to create one of the most impactful products in history – despite basically being a more modern take on the old Walkman classic.

Comment by Rob

What the ipod did was be the first to make good use of portable hard disk drives, but for an existing product type.

It was half first, half third. The key was that on the ipod you could store your whole collection, not just a couple of albums.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Mortimer’s back,hurrah!

Wii shows the power of third for me. I think it was Marcus (Macus?) who mentioned it concentrates on the fun of playing,and has made it better – forget fancy graphics and stuff, it’s simply the most fun to play.

Comment by Northern Planner

It was Marcus who talked about Wii and you’re right, it’s a really good example of ‘Third Mover’ – something that must be pissing off and confusing my friends at SONY. But I shouldn’t say that should I? Ha.

Comment by Rob

Wii took existing technology and mixed and adapted it to create a near perfect whole.

3rd mover at its best.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I’m a bit surprised that Niko hasn’t yet jumped in with this book I can’t remember right now on how copying well might as well be a more viable strategy for our times.

What I found interesting, and I also don’t find that source anymore, was this saying that disruption in itself doesn’t have a benefit.

This ( came to mind reading this and I think it summarizes it pretty well:
1. It’s hard to explain the benefits of disruption.
2. It’s hard to sell disruption, because people don’t want to be disrupted.
3. Most technology we now consider “disruptive” wasn’t conceived that way.
4. The disruptors often don’t make the money.
5. Simple, modest goals are most likely to succeed, and most likely to make us happy.

I don’t know why it is that incremental improvements or a new take on a tried solution (or a trend, as you, for me surprisingly called it) got a bad reputation. More often than not, the things that made the great successes special (iPod, iPhone, WII, …) were the little tweaks, the tinkering with UX/UI.

Are there many ‘objective’ disruptions that also lead to ‘objective’ and lasting benefits for the brand who did it? (Dyson comes to mind, …)

Comment by Thomas

what the fuck are you talking about thomas and what the fuck are you doing commenting on a 5 year old fucking blog post. thats even older than you isnt it?

Comment by andy@cynic

This blog has been going over 5 years. That is depressing.

Comment by DH

suicide fucking worthy.

Comment by andy@cynic

Thanks for bringing that to my mind Andy. That’s what happens when you click on a link in Rob’s posts, end up reading it, and the comments and then comment, without looking at the date. Stupid.

Comment by Thomas

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