I got a new Kindle this month. I’ve known they were available since their initial release. As an avid reader and author, I’ve even been familiar with all the benefits of bringing the world of book reading online. I also knew of course what it was designed to be a breakthrough for Amazon … an iPod, only for books. And I owned an iPod and loved it.
But, for some reason, it wasn’t until the last couple of months that my demand matured enough to act.
Now I have it and I love it. I’ve downloaded a set of favorites, a few new ones I’ve been meaning to go purchase and I’m set for my frequent travels. Just got back from a trip and have to report that I’m a happy camper. I got the big form factor and was excited with how easy it was to embrace … it really did feel just like reading a book. Best of all though, it fit easily into my travel portfolio and lightened my load.
This thing is in the sweet. What took it so long to be embraced?
I’m reminded of the law of Release 3 with new innovations and amazed at how subtly I’ve been a part of this. Microsoft is famous for this but in truth it really does seem that most new products take some time to be relevant. All of this got me to thinking about whether or not this is typical when I ran across one of my favorite books from the past and realized that it’s universal.
The book: About Three Bricks Shy of the Load by Myron Cope. It’s a story about the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers that tracks them through their breakout season. Turns out it was two years before they went on to win the first of four Super Bowls. The point that jumped out at me was the central premise of the book. The team it turns out was young and talented but lost in the first round of the playoffs and did in fact have ‘three’ bricks to its foundation missing … commitment, balance and confidence.
It strikes me that businesses and products have the same issues.
First Brick: Are you committed to solving this problem?
New products come and go and most offer some interesting capabilities when they are first launched. Only a select few go ‘narrow and deep’ and really take on all aspects of solving a market problem. Often this means much more than a simple product innovation itself, it involves lots of service areas around it.
The iPod for example connected not only because of the elegance of the device, it connected because Apple solved both the relationship problem (with the music industry to authorize distribution) and the download problem (through iTunes ability to provide an easy to access central repository). It seems to me that the Kindle is now at the same place … connecting publishers and an easy download service to the device. Amazon is telling me they’re committed by addressing the full scope of the issue.
Second Brick: Does the solution balance simple with powerful?
The two hallmarks of hitting the sweet spot are solutions that balance ease of use with capabilities that are rich and powerful. A well designed product or service invariably has both characteristics. It appeals to the masses who find the learning curve is small and to the sophisticated who like doing something that’s never been done before better.
The Kindle strikes this balance extraordinarily well. The form factor really does give me the same feel as reading a book with simple page up and down capabilities. The menu structure provides one click access to range of services. But the ability to take notes, bookmark and transmit turns it into a platform. Good for both markets.
Third Brick: Can I be confident that there a network of support around it?
Regardless of how good (or cool) a new offering is, never underestimate the power of the status quo. Buyers tend not to make decisions that require ANY changes in behavior until it is obvious that doing so safe. Geoff Moore did a great job of characterizing this behavior in Crossing the Chasm. More than 80% of buyers just prefer to ‘wait’ until all the kinks are out.
Release 3 of the Kindle has that broad support base. I counted more than 250,000 books, newspapers and even blogs now available for download (and even continuous updates). There’s a good history now of successful support and usage. And new authors are even designing ahead of time now to optimize delivery.
I don’t suppose any of this is breakthrough thinking but for those of you out there like me who lack the quality of ‘patience’, a good reminder is always a good thing. Don’t set your expectations high when launching a new offering … the market will repel you until you’ve achieved the level of maturity needed for success.
And for those of you engineering your new offering to hit the ‘sweet spot’, take stock of the three bricks. You may not be able to get them all on day one but if you design for them appropriately and upgrade efficiently, your breakthrough may only be a couple of release levels away.