A plane crashed into the frozen tundra in the far north. Two survivors staggered out of the plane, clothes torn and barefoot. A hungry polar bear appeared on the horizon, spotted them, and was running full speed toward them. One of the survivors started to run, and realizing that he was alone, turned around to see the second man putting on a coat and taking boots from luggage strewn on the ground. “What the @!@& are you doing? There’s a hungry bear coming! We have to outrun the bear!” shouted the running man. The second man finished tying up his boots and replied, “I don’t have to outrun the hungry bear, but I do have to outrun YOU!”
The moral of the story holds in product management and life. Don’t be a perfectionist. Often, “good enough” is all you need to win the order and beat the competition. In fact, being “perfect” may cause expensive delays and actually burden your products with unwanted features which few are willing to pay for. In this day of scarce resources and money, a good product manager or strategist knows what “good enough” is.
"Good enough" does change over time as technology, needs, and expectations evolve so it does not mean that you can be complacent.. That's what product updates or upgrades are for - and serve as a good, potential revenue generator.
There are 2 applicable rules or laws which govern "Good Enough":
80/20 Rule (Pareto's Principle)
Learn how to apply the “80/20“rule in life. Twenty percent of your work will be responsible for eighty percent of your results, so focus 80 percent of your time and energy on the 20 percent of your work that is really important. Likewise, in business, roughly twenty percent of your customers will bring in approximately eighty percent of your revenue or profit – so focus on being “good enough” for them as a priority.
The Law of Diminishing Returns
Obey the “law of diminishing returns” - to continue after a certain level of performance has been reached will result in a decline in effectiveness. This is called “bang for the buck” – you need to move on to bigger and better things. In fact, disobeying the law has dire and unwanted consequences. Think of Bruce Jenner, Michael Jackson, and all the celebrities who continued to add plastic surgery? Or a teenager who messes with a zit. At some point, they overdid it and arguably got the opposite results that they intended.
So don’t be “Mr. or Mrs. Perfect”. Know when “Good Enough” is, well, “Good Enough”.
A shoe company sent its top two salesmen to develop business in a remote backward continent with millions of inhabitants. The company didn’t hear back from either employee for 2 months so, fearing something dreadful, they went looking for them. They found the first salesman and he was despondent. He failed to get a single shoe order, crying: “I can’t believe this, but NOBODY wears shoes here!”. Begging to leave, they brought the poor soul home. The company then went searching for the second salesman, finally locating him in a faraway village. The second salesman was giggly carrying a suitcase full of orders, happily laughing: “I can’t believe this, but NOBODY wears shoes here!”
The moral of the story is not only about one's attitude but that innovation can be hard to sell. People are complacent and resistant to change. Many tablets were developed prior to the Apple iPad. PARC was the creator of the GUI, mouse, WYSIWYG, Ethernet, etc. but failed to properly commercialize and profitably exploit such innovations.
Change involves overcoming a certain comfort level, breaking custom and tradition, new costs, new procedures, processes, new learning, etc. In many cases, the “buyer” doesn’t even know what questions to ask or even recognizes/acknowledges that he even has a big enough problem that needs to be solved by the innovation. The Seller can have similar issues of not understanding the pain points and, particularly, the pain points and needs that the customer cares about (or even aware of).
(This story and insight are courtesy of Allistaire Black from Huthwaite UK who is a a fantastic teacher of SPIN Selling.)
Frank Lio is a Product Manager, Strategist, and Change Agent in the Hi-Tech industry. His growing track record of successes include creating 3 winning software products, leading nationwide seminars, and turning around a failing business unit. He is currently serving a dual role as Product Manager and Business Team Support Manager at Instron ITW.
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