the science of product design

Did you know this is called a Taraxacum?

Ever made a wish and blown on a dandelion when you were a kid?
Or soccer kicked one out of frustration (or joy)?
I stopped doing that when I found out that the weed was  a nuisance to gardeners and what I was doing was helping the weed proliferate.

Whether you know it or not, plants reproduce in two broad categories: making a lot of seeds and investing very little energy into making them or making one seed and investing all your energy into making them.

People say you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket; but clearly, Mother Nature thinks it’s a fairly good idea.

The dandelion (if you’ve guessed it) employs the first method. It makes a ton of seeds and hopes that at least one of them will make it to a full plant later on. Kinda like cell phone manufacturer Nokia. In their heydays, Nokia had a huge cell phone portfolio producing inexpensive cell phones that proliferated the market.
However, due to their late entry into the smart phone arena, their strategy started shifting.
They churned out phones less and less frequent.
As with plants, if your reproductive strategy is to devote a lot of resources into making one offspring, that offspring better have a high chance of survival.
In this analogy, the cell phone that you produce better be a game changer. Or else the resources put into it will have considered been wasted.

Another case in point is RIM. As much as my patriotism demands me to sing praises for the Waterloo, On-based company, they did screw up quite a few times in the past.
Their strategy route is a mirrored opposite to Nokia’s.
They were successful with pushing out well-designed corporate phones one a fairly regular basis (by no means often though). Focusing on designing the phones and the software and enterprise compatibility.
Then the Torch happened.
There was so much potential. It was touted as Blackberry’s best phone, the game changer.

But it was a bit of a let-down.
Sluggish sales had a pronounced effect on the company’s stock (Aug 2010news).
Then earlier this year, with the introduction of the LG and Samsung phones, it only compounded the problem because these phones gained market share mostly at the expense of RIM.

However, there is a sliver of hope on the horizon (a silver lining if you will).
RIM recently announced the introduction of SEVEN (yes, 7!) new phones.
Read here.

With this, hopefully they can keep up with the competitors and churn out more phones within a fiscal year.
This will help them turn the company around and regain their North American market leader position that they lost to Apple in the smart phone arena.

The take home message is:
Figure out which reproductive strategy you will employ.
Each has its advantages and disadvantages; so choose carefully.

Make sure the strategy aligns with your market position and brand image.
For example, Nokia was “everyone’s phone” so they produced a lot of products. They were the market leaders in the cell phone era which afforded them certain luxuries such as economies of scale.
Later, the sparse product launches did not fit very well with their market position and brand image. Soon people forgot about their phones in favour of newer cooler phones. Nokia was then swept away by the competition.
Nowadays forever relegated to commoner status. Sad.

Any how, I’ve been sitting on this article for way too long.
Publishing it without rereading it.

Just because I can. =P

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