What’s the secret behind the success of the mp3-format, the unmanned MQ-1Predator military aircraft and the top-selling Flip Ultra camcorder? The answer is: they’re all lousy: The sound of MP3 is flat, the Predator is really slow, and Flip Ultra operates with crappy resolution. So argues Robert Capps in an intriguing and yet troublesome article in Wired magazine this month.
The cases Capps rolls out are fascinating. He draws a detailed and facts-founded picture of how the disruptive force of technologies can reshape entire areas of business. But the conclusions are somehow oddly off the mark. While it is obviously true that both mp3, Predator and Flip all fall short of the otherwise dominating quality-standards within their industries, this lack-of-quality no way is what caused their success. On the contrary: the poor quality were drawbacks to all of them – but drawbacks which were set off by another, and more important feature. Namely the fact that the three simply played, flew and kicked ass. Respectively. They all hit it.
Put in differently: when new great stuff gets it right, it’s because they tap into a new dimension, spots possibilities otherwise unnoticed by traditional industries, and execute it to the max. Not because off what they miss out on. On the contrary, they only miss out on things and feautures relying only on tradition, and which – at the exact time the new stuff is being conceived – are leftovers of the past. Bringing faulty evolutionary steps to a stop, while pursuing other and more prospereous ends.
And, perhaps even more important: When new stuff gets it right, it’s because of flawless execution. Because they do perform that inch closer to perfect that makes the whole difference. If mp3, Predator and Flip doesn’t give you the picture: Think Facebook as opposed to Linkedin or Myspace. Think iPod as opposed to Creative or Zune.
“Good enough” is not a guiding principle for either innovation or succes. “Good thinking and doing” on the contrary might.