In the current climate of disruption, disruption and even more disruption, it is not surprising that those driving the products and services in the creative industries are in the constant cycle of reaction to the shiny new app or new service.
At a conference recently, a CIO from a leading commercial classifieds business summed it up so well. He admitted that he dreads the words “have you seen the latest .........”. The dots are where you insert the latest app that the leadership, admin team member, or the latest intern has spotted over the weekend. They wholeheartedly believe it has amazing features that need to be added as rapidly as possible so that your business can stay consumer relevant.
For businesses that have been publishing for over a century or entertaining audiences for decades, it is understandably very hard to keep up this war for constant product change. Now, even the relatively new online market leaders face the same constant catch up with the new start-up fraternity.
I recently read a book that helped put it all into perspective in a practical way. Adrian Slywotzky's Demand turns the thinking on its head, with some great examples of how to create what people love before they want it.
He gives some great examples of companies that have built their success by focusing solidly not on following the leader, but by creating the fresh ideas that come from putting the consumer in the centre. They look to develop market changing products and services which become highly successful at creating their own demand that is well apart from the competition.
In the book he talks about realising the Hassle Map.
The simple concept is that product designers look closely at your consumers and map out what are the key hassles for them, which really make them frustrated with what they are offered. In the world of TV, that could be the fact that you want to watch the latest episode of a UK show, at the exact time it is broadcast live or in the publishing world you want to cancel your paper subscription for a weekend as you are away, but have no easy way to do so.
The idea is that you listen to your consumers find all the hassles and then find a solution that solves a key hassle. Then if you build your product or service around solving that hassle simply, you are becoming a demand creator.
A simple example is that Netflix (and more recently others), were able to solve the hassle of trying to remember which episode of a series you are up to, when wanting to watch a whole set in a row. On Netflix every time you go to that series, it lines up the episode you were mid-way through or sets up the next all ready to go: hassle of memory failure fixed!
Demand creators he argues have a number of clear approaches that set them apart.
One really stood out for me.
They are always ready to keep protect their uniqueness. They are never happy to just sit in a market-winning position. Demand creators are always looking for experiments to keep their product ahead of the curve and ensuring they are ahead in the hassle map stakes.
This approach means they are always open to experiment and create a culture that relishes experiments, even if a number will not work despite the best intentions, planning and implementations. The consumer gems may simply emerge on a hunch of an idea and a quick product experiment may just lead to a highly profitable consumer success – so it’s worth experimenting all the time.
Pixar is a place that has managed to create movie success after success and has a creative culture, which I am sure many would love to be part of. It is well documented that at Pixar that there are no bad ideas, only ideas that can be added to. This approach they call Plussing. At regular script and storyline ideas, the understanding is that any idea put forward is never shot down in flames, it is just added too, to see where it goes.
Each idea has the response "yes this is great ...and what about this.."This approach means there is total safety in team meetings to say the wildest ideas knowing that any idea will just be added too. It is amazing to think this approach developed three blockbuster movies based on the adventures of toys and two movies based on life as a tropical fish!
So next time you hear about the latest competitor application, stop and think. Do we tackle this with a catch up enhancement or do we look at our consumer hassle map and create something that is brand new that will win hearts and minds by a demand creation approach.