October 7, 2011

Development Model for the Connected Age

Endorsed Development, a new way of attracting a market for products we want to create.

Since the Stone Age, products have been developed based on need. They were meant to solve problems and assist us in completing tasks. To begin with, it was survival tasks, soon followed by transportation tasks, trading tasks, and leisure tasks. In design, form closely followed function.

As we developed greater technical skills, we began to innovate. We refined designs to be more usable and more attractive. Occasionally, because of cost and demand for the products, designs were adjusted based on ease of manufacture. When we had to get something to market quickly, we concentrated on making it work and shipping it as soon as we could.

Design-Driven Development

With automation and the assembly line, speed of manufacture was handled so we concentrated once more on making things attractive as well as functional. We were still tied to the products-as-solution imperative, but we could add features that we thought were fun. Features became selling points, even though marketers kept reminding us that it was benefits, not features, that sold products.

With improved technology mid-way through the 20th century we started making things just because they were cool. Nifty features overshadowed concrete benefits, and many products were built and purchased because they caught public attention. This intensified when computers became popular, and hit its peak at the zenith of the dot-com development period. By then, we were creating simply because we could. In our arrogance, we thought that if we built it, they would come, no matter what it was we built. Anyone who built without knowing precisely where the revenue would come from quickly found that the bursting bubble hurt.

Demand-Driven Development

Wisely retreating to a meet-the-needs development model we re-established a solid foundation for our businesses. The economy stabilized, wealth grew, and investors once again began to look around for technologies in which to place their capital. While most products were still being created based on an answer to a question, a solution to a problem, or to help someone perform a task, we couldn’t shake that heady feeling of developing products that simply were fun and interesting. Facebook solved a problem — helping new students connect on campus — and became a phenomenon. Twitter didn’t solve a problem at all, it was (and still is) fun. There was no real need to communicate in 140 characters or less, unless you felt it was the answer to information overload (possible).

Innovation Development

The success of products that we didn’t really NEED but that we overwhelmingly enjoyed fueled a move into Innovation Development. Currently, we are seeing the development of innovative products that are mostly cool and fun, but may not have any value other than that we assign to them. We impose usefulness on them because we want to use them (microwave oven, for example). As we adapt to these new products we come to rely on them, and they become “necessities” rather than just luxuries.

Enter the Connected Age, where products that enhance our relationships are becoming necessities indeed. To get and stay connected, to remain competitive, to be in touch with one’s market and aware of trends we MUST use connective technologies. Many of these technologies arose out of a desire (a want, not a need) to make it easier to build our relationships and network with others. Some also were intended to assist with filtering the glut of information coming at us from all sides. We didn’t NEED filters, the brain is quite capable of managing that task, but we found them useful for reducing the informational clutter that we were confronted with on a daily basis. Reviews, recommendations, retweets, and endorsements make life easier by allowing us to cherry-pick what we want to acquire.

Endorsed Development

What prompted my thoughts on this was a Mashable post on video glasses that stream what you see. Development is being endorsed by a multitude of small investors who believe in the product and want to see it realized. Endorsing it via Kickstarter.com, anyone can invest a small (or large) amount of money to get the project going.  This not only funds development but establishes a ready market of people who are extremely likely to purchase the product when it ships. Their early adoption of the product will also be broadcast to their networks, spreading the word and broadening the potential market.

This is the perfect development model for the Connected Age. We can come up with ideas that are innovative, fun and cool, and whether they meet a need or not, we can find people who are willing to invest in development and create a market for the products. This reduces development risks and allows more people to invest in technology. It doesn’t keep the big players out, yet it provides a place for smaller players to invest as well. For all investors it establishes a network of people willing to talk up the product to increase sales.

Are you already engaged in Endorsed Development? Let me know.

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