Building Products — A tale of two Steve’s
I have been recently wondering about the two Steve’s who have had a profound influence on me or possibly all of us. One of them is the mercurial Steve Jobs. I cannot put the prefix of “late” to Steve Jobs as he still continues to have his spirit hover around and influence us through his ‘i’ series of products The other is the incredible Steve Blank (http://www.steveblank.com) who through his ‘Lean Startup’ movement has been disrupting the approach to product development and has been systemically re-writing conventional wisdom on product development. I have kind of distilled down some basic factors behind these two schools of thought. I trust, as builders of products it would possibly help you to debate within on which school of thought you belong.
I think this is one of the foundations of building products. I do not think you can bring out something without conviction. Steve Job’s (SJ) conviction was around a sense of supreme self-assuredness. Steve Blank’s (SB) conviction is about validating your conviction periodically and frequently. SB’s Rule number one is to ‘Get out of the Building’ while SJ would have fired you for getting the idea out of the building!
Time to Market
SB’s rule number nine is about fast decision-making, cycle time, speed and tempo. In other words, get the rubber on the road faster to your target market, get feedback, incorporate that feedback and get it out faster again. Repeat this cycle, till you reach some kind of critical mass. SJ’s modus operandi is to take necessary time , create a suspense, a sense of awe, make people anxious about it and create that magic time and again by making people stand in queue from early morning to touch and feel the product. In my view the former approach is about getting something ‘Good enough’ faster to market, while the latter approach is to market ‘Near Perfection’ as the differentiator.
Price and Cost
Though unstated, SB’s model focuses on iterative price discovery, while SJ always kept it at a premium. In SB’s model the argument is about preserving cash till the time customer/market fit is made, while in SJ’s model it is about planned pre-emptive and massive spend in the absolute faith that the pay-off is going to be multi-fold. With respect to failure, SB’s model is more resilient as SJ’s model requires deep pocket to recover and start again.
Scale, Impact, Pivot
The views from both the schools of thought kind of converge here. Both advocate embarking on something that impact on a sizeable segment of population over a period of time to remain relevant. However in SB’s school of thought it is easier to pivot and also be less emotional about killing something that is not working. Since the emotional investment is validated periodically it is easier to course correct. In SJ’s model the emotional investment made is so huge and it takes a slightly longer time to announce that ‘I made a mistake’.
There could be various other factors that I possibly could have missed out, but I thought it might be a good idea to make a beginning somewhere. In my earlier stages of my life I have believed that I know best and I have been proven wrong countless number of times. I have been proven right at times but my success rate is lower when I believed I know what is best for my consumers. As the colour of my hair changes, I have began to wish somehow that SB came into my life earlier as I firmly believe his model gives a sense of semblance , structure and possibility thinking to normal human beings like me. So does that leave SJ’s model null and void? I would not even dare to attempt saying so, but SJ’s model though available in bits and pieces has not successful repeatable replication yet. It might just be SJ’s model is fit for Zero to One technologies and SB’s model fit for One to N technologies (http://zerotonebook.com).
Setting aside the models which I would like you to ponder, I would like to end with a final question? Who would be remembered in hundred years from now?
SJ — The Artist Par Excellence or SB — The Teacher Par Excellence
Have a great 2015 of Building Products
Originally published at blog.mahindracomviva.com on January 7, 2015.