CultureEthanInnovationProcessProduct Management

Interrupting our thread in progress…

One thing that’s definitely interruptible is a comment thread on the blog.

Andrew, an APC Product Manager, has kindly and professionally taken the time to respond to everyone’s comments about the Big Red Button. He says:

As a product manager, I can tell you that every feature we include on our UPSs represents a trade off, a compromise between user needs and ease of use, between cost and functionality, complexity vs aesthetics. In order to be as competitive as possible in this marketplace, we strive to please the maximum amount of people with the minimum number of products. This probably holds true for most of the companies people reading this post work for.

It’s hard to argue with that kind of logic. Often what we dyed-in-the-wool technologists see as a “simple fix” can make a product hard to use for many people. However…

Please keep in mind that any changes critical to user interface, like this one, have to be reviewed and pass a series of “hurdles”, any of which having the potential to guide us towards (or away from) keeping this switch just as it is now. (Incidentally, testing new ideas like this is one of the best parts of my job).

The ugly truth comes out. Review process which exist to make sure that bad ideas don’t get to market have a tendancy to simply reduce the number of new ideas in general, leading to situations where changes that actually are quite simple never make it out the door because no one is willing or able to fight for them. Many companies like to pay lip service to testing new ideas, but the hard truth is that if you’re serious about testing you’re going to “waste” a lot of money testing ideas that will never get out the door. And since companies don’t like to waste money, you only test ideas that have a good chance of passing. And that happens via a very subtle kind of social pressure that prevent employees from putting forward weak or controversial ideas.

I think you need to take a few more risks Andrew. I agree completely that adding a molly guard has tradeoffs but they might just be worth it. And don’t take it personally – you are not alone! I have seen this kind of logic squash a lot of good product and feature ideas. Very few companies have a process that isn’t a mixture of help and hindrance.

(And a note for readers: although Saeed writes 99% of this blog, this is the other 1%)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *