Monthly Archives: March 2015

Removing friction (for good products)

I came across a very interesting Wired article this week (http://www.wired.com/2015/03/disney-magicband/), which talked about the new “MagicBand” Disney are using in their Orlando theme park. The band itself doesn’t seem to be doing anything particularly innovative, but the article stuck with me all the same.

disneymagicband2_f-1024x682

The bracelet enables children and parents alike to have an even more unforgettable experience at Disney’s theme part, by removing the friction that comes with running a place that welcomes millions of people ever year. In essence, the bracelet has an RFIP chip in it that knows who and where you are in order to customize your experience and pre-empt your every desire. What stuck with me however, was the description of how the entire product worked. Instead of going overboard and piling everything technology could offer into the bracelet, Disney seems to have gotten the balance perfectly right. The bracelet itself is very understated (as in, doesn’t look overly futuristic) and its functionality is limited to exactly those areas it is most useful (providing you with more food, faster and getting you onto more rides in an enjoyable way). It is the first hardware product in a while that I have seen to have such great focus.

Learning from other “unusual” hardware

Another product which presents the same characteristics is one I have been using for a while now: my belt. Now, stay with me on this one as I, like everyone else I imagine, have been using belts for a long time of course. A few months ago however, I randomly bought a new belt online without giving it much though. It looked nice online and initially I didn’t think any more of it.

Free-shipping-high-quality-fashion-mens-beltsMen-font-b-Auto-b-font-font-b-Lock-b

 

When it arrived however, I was really surprised by the lock mechanism (I should have noticed this before, but it was more of an impulse-buy :)). Instead of having to put the pin in the right hole, this belt came with a locking mechanism that was completely different (the only way I can describe it is the same way a rollercoaster works to keep the carts from moving backwards on a hill).

Belt_04

This means that

  1. The belt can be adjusted exactly to the size I want it to
  2. You don’t get the usual “wear and tear” of the holes in the belt
  3. It is a lot easier to close in general

It’s hard to think that a product as old as the belt can be improved upon, but they definitely did it 🙂

It’s not about the tech

On a day-to-day basis I am involved a lot more in digital products (actually, I’m almost exclusively involved with digital products). What i love about the two examples I provided however, is that they illustrate exactly what I consider to be “good product”. Although these products might not be purely digital, they are the result of an innovative, visionary approach that go beyond what most people look at whilst only providing the features they are actually good at. They think about the product from the right perspective: the user. They simply realise the goal of product development is not about producing the coolest and most avant-garde tech, it’s about producing the right tech

If you have any questions or simply want to point me to other examples of products (both digital and physical) you really like, please leave them in the comments below! 😛

If you want ownership, don’t forget strategy (& communication)

Strategy is one of those subjects that most people think they understand when very few actually do (I might be one of the former, but that would make this an awkward article, so I’ll continue on the premise I’m not :)). Depending on the people you ask, it is something that should be top-down, bottom-up or simply all across the organisation. Whatever view you take of it, there are a few issues that are of critical importance and today I would like to focus on an aspect of implementation that is not often linked: “ownership”.

What does ownership have to do with strategy?

…you might ask, and that’s a great question! Strategy and ownership don’t seem to have a clear link until you start switching your viewpoint around (starting from ownership). One of the key areas to drive within a productive product team is ownership. Ownership is what enables individuals within a team to make key decisions without constantly having to refer back to their team leaders, managers or boss (and thus enabling faster actions). This only works, however, if people feel they have

  1. The authorisation of making those decisions on a daily basis
  2. Protection in case they make mistakes
  3. Understand all of the criteria to make the decisions

Points 1 & 2 seem fairly obvious but for some reason, point 3 often seems to be neglected and that’s where strategy comes in. Strategy, done right, provides a direction framework that enables decision making to occur in a clear manner by evaluating the outcomes of a certain decision against the strategic goals of the company. Without a clear strategy, decisions run the chance of being inconsistent and pointing in different directions and people know this.

Lost and Confused Signpost

It might come as a weird thought (not really, I hope), but people don’t like to be completely wrong. Although you can tell them over and over again that they should be and have all the freedom to make decisions, good people will only do so if they feel confident they are going to be good at it and that’s where strategy comes in.

Communicate & watch

Putting the last two points together, it’s easy to see that a badly communicated strategy will result in a team that is unwilling to make decisions, however many times you tell them they can.  Once people fully understand the framework against which they are to evaluate different options, they will be able to finally make the decisions everyone (them being the first) wanted to be made in the first place.

crossroads

 

If you have any questions & or feedback, don’t hesitate — leave them in the comments! 🙂