Wednesday, January 10, 2007

If you want to create a great new product, do less

Counter-intuitive, right? Sure was to me. We marketers are brainwashed to believe that "better" means more features. But creating value by doing less is the new horizon in product innovation. Just ask Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School, or Mark Hart, who wrote about the phenomenon in the latest PDMA Visions magazine.

Christensen (the most quoted man in innovation today?) discusses the concept in the December Harvard Business Review, focusing on social services (link - $$). One example cited is MinuteClinic, which started in Minneapolis providing walk-in health services at CVS drugstores (CVS subsequently acquired MinuteClinic).

MinuteClinic treats a finite set of common maladies with nurse practitioners, not doctors, with reasonable cost and a high-level of convenience. Is MinuteClinic service "better" than treatment from the Mayo Clinic? No, but it's good enough, much cheaper and more convenient. That's the "underdo" strategy in a nutshell.

Mark Hart's example is 37signals, a company that evolved an internal need for simple, Internet-based collaborative project management into Basecamp, a product now used by more than 500,000 users and awarded "Best of the Web" by Business Week--even though it does much less than Microsoft Project. Which of course is the point.

(Picture: a Rube Goldberg device from Wilf Ratzburg via stock.xchng)

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