The fact that some choice is good doesn’t necessarily mean that more choice is better.
Barry Schwartz, “The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less”
I find it fascinating that today, in our personal lives or in business, we need so many things that we did not have before. I personally never thought I needed that much, but when I look back at when I started my career, I realize that today compared to then, I do.
Lately, with the advances that have been made around internet shopping, it gets even worse. I have never been a big shopper, but now I find myself buying all kinds of neat things that I (most of the time) really don’t need. Why is that?
In The Paradox of Choice, Why More is Less, (a great read that…I bought online!) Barry Schwartz tries to explain why we need so many things today and how it controls our lives. I found his book captivating, and the thing that made me realize how real this was for me personally and in my work is when he talks about “the curse of high expectations”.
Now, from a software point of view, as I look at functionality we should be investing in and what markets we should be getting into, I find it difficult to decide where we should stop adding features because it seems like we need to do everything for everyone. Of course, that is not possible; not everyone needs every feature anyway, and even if they had every feature, they would not use half of them.
I have been implementing systems most of my career, different systems with different organizations, and one thing that is a constant is that most folks don’t use what they have, or at least don’t use it fully to get all of its benefits. I can’t count how many times I told a customer that their specific issue could be resolved if they used such and such functionality that the system had. No doubt it has happened to you as well. I know it happens to me all the time now, especially when my kids show me something on my smart phone that I was unaware was there.
There is something else that seems to be a constant: whatever features a product or an application has, I always need something more! Of course, I think that if I had defined this product it would have it all. Or not! I would probably have missed something important and added features that really are not important to most people.
So what is the solution for a company like ours? What are we supposed to do? Should we get into a feature set contest like most companies do? Should we get into the “Me-Too Game”? If so, are we in danger of “the curse of high expectations”? Or, should we differentiate ourselves somehow?
I believe that finding a differentiator is the name of the game. It is for our company and it probably is for yours as well. Everyone needs to understand what differentiates them from their competitors. Everyone needs to be able to go to their customers and ask why they selected them. (And, hopefully, like the answer they get!)
Having a product or a solution that is complete is the first part of the deal. No one should put a product on the market if it is not a complete solution to specific problems, or if it does not meet basic standards of excellence. Once you are satisfied that it does, then get into something that will really differentiate you from the others. Find the little things that people will remember you for. Be the one that puts the extra effort into building something special.
Be unique. Wow people with what you have and what they can do with your product.