Tag Archives: product development

Orthogonal Birding

Orthogonal Birding

When a group of birdwatchers finds an interesting bird, invariably they’ll gather around and look at the bird for as long as the bird complies. Sometimes this can go on for quite a while, especially if the bird is difficult to identify, is uncommon or is doing something unusual.

Once I have identified the bird, I then practice a strategy I call ‘orthogonal birding’. I just turn to the left and look for any new birds. I then repeat this action two more times. More often than not, this method of looking where no one else is looking can yield new and more interesting birds such as Clay-colored Thrush, Spruce Grouse and Black-headed Gull.

This is somewhat similar to the Patagonia Rest Stop Effect.

I’ve also found this to be a useful strategy for product development. Many times we can get distracted by the latest and greatest. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it also helps to consider features or content that no one else is considering at the moment.

BCG Matrix as a Product Roadmap

BCG Matrix as a Product Roadmap

The Boston Consulting Group Matrix is a useful way of viewing the stages of development of a product line.

It describes 4 phases of a product’s life cycle:

  • QUESTION MARK: Low market share, high market growth
  • RISING STAR: High market share, high market growth
  • CASH COW: High market share, low market growth
  • DOG: Low market share, low market growth

Originally developed to analyze cash flow, I’ve found it helpful to:

  • Pin down a product line’s stage and where it may be going
  • Choose product strategies
  • Identify and allocate resources

Question Mark
When a product begins its life-cycle, it remains an unknown despite our best estimates about who will receive it and how it will be received. Product development is the most innovative at this stage: taking risks, learning on the fly and adapting rapidly. The focus of efforts is on developing PRODUCT KNOW HOW.

Some companies don’t manage this phase well, hoping to jump to the cash cow phase without making useful adjustments and improvements, or taking advantage of learning opportunities that arise during this time.

Rising Star
The product takes off: it’s starting to make money. Development still needs to be nimble and make creative decisions but now must stay within the product’s initial framework and identity (i.e., no crazy changes). This is an excellent time to promote the product line and establish the company’s expertise in the space. The focus is now on PROMOTING the KNOW HOW.

Cash Cow
This is the pinnacle of the product line; it’s got a positive, steady cash flow. For some, it’s both the most boring and most desired phase of a product life cycle. Product development at this point is the most conservative and by-the-book. The focus is now on MAINTAINING the KNOW HOW.

The end phase for the product line. Sales are declining, market is compressing. This is the trickiest time for product development, since the options are now distinct and drastic: a simple make-over, major plastic surgery or a casket. The focus now is on WHAT TO DO with the KNOW HOW.

Some companies fail to recognize when the cow is dwindling into a dog. As a result, inappropriate product strategies are still maintained, hastening the eventual demise of the line and perhaps even, the company.

Finding the Right Ingredients

Finding the Right Ingredients

spice_1One of the most difficult challenges in creating a game or any product for that matter is figuring out what the consumer wants.  Inexperienced developers will often just ask consumers what their preferences are or worse yet, list a bunch of features and ask whether they want them in the game.

It’s like walking a kid in a candy shop, pointing at every candy bin and asking, “Do you like this?”  More than likely, you’ll end up with a lot of “likes”.

Kano modeling offers a more sophisticated approach to assessing consumer preferences but one that’s simple to use.  By asking a series of questions about features, you can determine which features the consumer must have, would like to have, would be willing to pay more for and those she is indifferent to.

Over several product cycles, we struggled with a certain feature.  It took significant production time to maintain.  Some of us felt that it was an essential feature, others felt it was a wasted and cumbersome distraction.  When we polled our users about how much the users ‘liked’ it, the response was tepid.

Believing that the feature was not that important, we were set to scrap it.  Luckily we polled our users using Kano modeling and discovered that it was a ‘Must Have’ feature thereby avoiding a disaster if we had removed it.