Are we leaving the middle adopters in the dust?

Finally. After a week of rain the sun came out in San Francisco. Quick to take advantage of our much-needed break in the downpour, my fiancé and I headed into the city to the farmer's market. After perusing the absolutely awesome local selection, I stumbled upon a stand that was selling grass-fed beef of all different cuts. I didn't have enough cash (I tend to fail at this a great deal), but I noticed the vendor accepted credit cards via Square. Score! I made my selection, handed my card to the owner who kindly got his iPhone and Square card reader out of his cash box. He swiped my debit card and proceeded to stare perplexedly at his phone.

"Hmmm it didn't seem to read your card." No problem, I broke out the card again for a reswipe. Looking puzzled still the man curled his lip and said, "Nope...still doesn't like it." I told him it was no problem and handed him a credit card instead. We stared at each other awkwardly for a couple minutes while the brilliant gizmo thought when he finally turned to me and said, "It's saying the server is down, why don't you circle back with me in a bit and we can try it again later?" I told him I would (I really wanted those damn sirloin tips) and went off exploring. 15 minutes later I circled back with the vendor for round 2. SERVER ERROR. He once again asked me to circle back with him later. I politely told the man I would, but unfortunately it was a white lie and headed home meatless.

So what's my point? Technology can really suck. It's not this guy's fault that this "elegant, simplistic, beautiful" piece of gadgetry didn't work:

1) It's my fault for relying on my stupid cards (I'll gladly take the blame there). I need to learn to carry more cash.

2) We put wayyyyy too much faith in these brand new "game-changing" devices.

Over-promise and Under-deliver

I honestly could spend an entire piece railing on the technology that pisses me off because it fails to live up to marketing charm it unleashed on our minds. Take iCloud for example. Perhaps I'm alone on this one (and fair enough), but I love my music. I have a hard drive of tunes at home that I've collected since burning discs came on the scene. The thought of walking around with my entire library on my iPhone (as they promise) is awesome. Except that the reality is the technology sucks. It fails 90% of the time. Yeah, I know it's the 3G or connection blah blah blah. Who cares? Don't position a product as “magical” that clearly sucks at executing what it was built for.

The Middle

If we look at the traditional bell curve of new product development, it illustrates that new adopters come in the early release stage in low volume. As time goes on later adopters begin to hop aboard at a growing volume. Fairly simple (in theory). Another key to this model is the understanding that in your product's lifecycle your "early adopters" will be the most forgiving (too forgiving if you ask me) of any imperfections. This is why companies (ala Google) attach BETA tags to products. It's their way of saying "Hey we know it's not perfect, but we really want people to start using it."

We're innovating at such a fast pace that we're ignoring the middle of the bell curve. We're so eager to move on to "the next big thing" that we've ignored that fact that these gizmos are failing to live up to their promise. We just see shiny things, and we think they are silver bullet solutions. Squirrel! Why does it feel like we are leaving real problems in the dust? Why doesn't someone stop and say "Hey...I don't think we're done yet."

Here's another example (which should solidify this rant). A friend of mine was chatting with me the other day. He was telling me about a research organization that they work for and how they would like to innovate by equipping their field workers with tablet technology" to improve their data collection. I asked him when such a roll out was expected. He said they would probably finish planning it by 2013 and roll something out in 2015. That my friend is reality. 2015! This made me smile. By that time we'll be on "The New iPad  Part Deux” or some other nonsense. This made me smile because it was reality. The iPad is great. But let's not be fooled into thinking *snap* Apple releases the iPad and now businesses next year are adopting it. Tablets are great, but they simply don't solve a large enough problem for organizations (like my friend’s) to throw big money into right now.

Slow down

Let's all take a deep breath. Sign out of your Pinterest account and reflect on all of the "existing" problems that technology is NOT successfully solving...you know like accepting a freakin' credit cards. No doubt that Jack and the gang at Square will figure it out - but look at their site and you'll see they're already deploying their "next thing" - an analytics backend for the iPad that will make your business smarter. Say...I have some crystals that will keep tigers away. I’m unfairly picking on Square, but they happen to have the misfortune of irritating me today – it could have been any “magical” technology as far as I’m concerned (flippin’ iCloud).

Slow down. Let’s all take a deep breath. Early adopters might forgive you, but middle adopters won't. Let’s get back to perfecting the technology you initially championed and solve the pain points that are still sitting in front of our noses.

 

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