Jeffrey Phillips, author of Relentless Innovation, recently posted a really interesting piece on why so many companies churn out crappy products. And with the Consumer Electronics Show about to start tomorrow, it seemed like a perfect time to inject some reality into the hype. After all, when the hype-machine smoke clears and everyone wakes up from the party in Las Vegas, most of us realize that Sturgeon’s Law is true: 90% of anything created in any industry is crap.
In his examination of why so many new products are “undifferentiated and indistinguishable from the other products or services” a company offers, he focuses on what he calls “The Process of Crap,” the inputs, activities, and outputs of a company that lead to crappy products:
- Strategy: It’s easy for a company to come up with a strategy, it’s another thing in the face of time, competition, and business pressures to actually follow that strategy. “The failure to live out strategy,” Phillips writes, ensures the production of crap.”
- Inputs: Phillips notes that while many companies have good intentions when it comes to listening to customers and the marketplace, the reality is that “many businesses have success filters that knock down ideas or reject insights that don’t align with the existing thinking and models and processes the business has codified.”
- Activities: Simply put, industrial systems and processes are designed to produce crap because they “are…imbued with the ability to sand off the unusual bits, round the edges and ensure complacency and conformity.” In other words, not only is thinking different hard, actually “doing different” is even harder.
- Culture: Finally, Phillips puts the blame squarely on corporate culture which has turned many companies into “conformist, risk averse places where short term goals are paramount and satisfying the customer is king.” It’s tough to innovate and differentiate when doing things differently isn’t really rewarded.”
Good lessons for all, even if you’re not making new electronic products. But next time you’re disappointed when you try out The Next Big Thing, now you’ll know why.by