“Why can’t we build cool products like Apple?”

If I hear this question in a high tech company again, I’m going to puke.  For starters, because your/my company doesn’t have Steve Jobs.  He’s a freak of nature.  A genius of sorts.  And one of a tiny number of people in the history of the technology industry that have his skills.

But lots of companies make great products and lots of money without needing a Steve Jobs.   Shouldn’t we focus on that instead?

First, let’s stop doing the things that are sure to deliver a bad product.  That should raise the chances of success by 50%.  Such as: catering to a small percentage of a user base with esoteric features that will appear complicated to the rest.  Or, rushing to deliver something without proving it’s useful and useable.

Then, let’s do the things that look like best practice. Spend the time upfront designing it right.   Explore contrarian approaches and avoid mimicking competitors without knowing exactly why.

Sweating the details.  Avoid making the user’s life too complicated with extraneous features.  Wait a minute, isn’t this what Apple does so well?  😉

One thought on ““Why can’t we build cool products like Apple?”

  1. Don,

    I couldn’t agree more, with the additional exception that the variation I also hear is “Why can’t we just do what Salesforce.com does?”

    This is instead of trying to figure out what the customers and market really need and maximize the capabilities that the company has already.

    If your customers are not sales organizations with top-down management, and are not highly data-centric and process-centric, you’re probably not going to want to (or be able to) copy salesforce.com. If your customers wanted salesforce.com, then there’s an answer already available to them — buy it. They don’t need you.

    Purely on the technology side, they’ve also built an incredible Saas platform over the years, with a sizable team and huge R&D investments. Saying you want to copy them is akin to saying you’re going to copy Windows 7. Really? Good luck on that.

    It seems to me these overall statements are the easy way out of a serious strategy discussion. Rather than doing the hard work, its quicker just to say you should copy someone else, assuming that you’ll benefit from all their success. So, back to your points about what to do:

    Figure out what you do best. Make sure its something that people will pay for. Do lots of it.

    Don’t be afraid to lose the customers that want all the crazy unique features. They weren’t going to take you good places anyway. Your VP of Sales will get over it eventually. You may need to buy him some drinks.

    Make bets. If you have conversations about strategy that sound like a laundry list, that’s like walking into a casino and playing roulette by putting money on all the numbers. Pick a few numbers, and spin the wheel.

    Or, I could be wrong.

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