Many products out there are good and probably good enough. But strategists would say that companies need more great products with good designs to succeed as there are too many me-too products out there. It is half the truth. There are many kinds of good-enoughs and you need to put it in a big strategy context. Read on and I will explain why.

I tell my people “good enough is not good enough," as far as what we do for our clients, but in the context of product strategy it can be a different story. It’s true that in today’s world, quality, speed, performance and convenience never stop improving.

Pick up any product, and you have to admit that the qualities that make it high performance, revolutionary and unique are losing momentum with each passing day. Your competitive advantage lasts for 6-9 months at most.

Many industries have been playing the Red Queen’s game, as observed in Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. Originally proposed by the evolutionary biologist L. van Valen, it involves following an evolutionary system where they must continually develop just to maintain the same level of fitness in their environment. A land where “it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

It’s time for companies to eradicate the notion that differentiation and low costs are mutually exclusive strategic choices. Both are needed to achieve and sustain not only leadership but also survival. This strategic framework is essential.

Here three ways for a company to compete:

  • First, a company must choose to become the ultimate leader in a given product or service. Being the superior product leader can require more time to conceive of and engineer the best product, but time should never be wasted on over-designing. The product needs to be able to uphold a premium price point and deliver a credible value proposition.
  • The second avenue is for a company to be a low-end disrupter. The strategy lies in creating a low cost delivery system to offer minimum features and performances that are required of a product, or reengineering the value equation so that a low-cost product can be marketed with a one-dimensional feature that offers matching performance, but nothing else. 
  • The third option is choosing to compete with “simple and good enough” products. This includes products with just the right combination of price, performance and features, which closely follow the pulse of the market and customer needs. In this market, speed and agility are crucial factors, since R&D investments are limited. Profit and volume trade-offs must be constantly evaluated, and trends of convergence as other products add on additional functions must be monitored. Take Instagram for example. This instant success resists the temptation to offer a whole toolbox of features and is so simple to use that we feel no need to seek anything fancier.

Adapted from an article from the upcoming Sept issue of MISC- The Simplicity Issue which be available in newstand around the world in the third week of Sept 2012. To read the full article pick up a copy of the current issue of MISC magazine.

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