Part 1: We Are Living in a New World: The Rules Have Changed

As products have gone from being delivered in a box to being delivered over the Internet, there’s been a dramatic shift in how customers consume, demand, and interact with products.

This fundamentally changes how products need to be built.

It’s always been about customer pull

While we have gone through many different product development methodologies over the years, the key thing to keep in mind is that what drove us to change in each of these previous shifts wasn’t simply changing for changes’ sake or simply because a group of people got together and decided to do things differently.

All these previous shifts happened in response to a change in how customers consume products which in turn created a spike in demand. To respond to this spike, we had to fundamentally change how we built products–from staged to iterative to continuous.

Today, it is no longer enough to simply build what customers say they want, because by the time you build that, you learn that what they really wanted was something quite different.

In this new world, the only way to ensure you build what customers want is to engage them continuously.

The stakes are much higher this time

The old way of building products used to work at a time when there were huge barriers to entry and few competitors. Even if you got the product completely wrong, you had time to course correct and get back on track.

But fast forward to today…with the Internet, open source, and cloud computing, it has become cheaper and faster than ever to introduce new products which means there is a lot more competition than before—both from incumbents and new companies starting up all over the world.

Did you know that there were 100M startups in 2018? That's a rate of 1 startup every 3 second!

In the old world, failing to deliver what customers wanted led to failed projects. But in the new world, continually failing to deliver what customers want, leads to total business model failure.

This is because customers today have a lot more choices than they did before. If they don’t get what they want from your product, they simply switch to something else.

On the other spectrum, the most successful companies today realize that good ideas are rare and hard to find. And that the best way to find the next big idea is to quickly test lots of ideas.

While the early adopters for this new way of working were certainly high-tech startups like AirBnb and Dropbox, over the years continuous innovation has been increasingly applied in many different domains and it works even at massive scale.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • We are living in a new world.
  • We are more connected to customers than ever before.
  • The cost of building products is at an all time low which means more competition and more choices for customers.
  • Switching costs are also low which means when customers don't get what they want, they switch.
  • The new winners embrace continuous learning to stay relevant to their customers.