Succeed in Business– Build Better Mousetrap: Hugh Myth– Being Better Is Not Good Enough Anymore…

Ah: Build a better mouse-trap; not a ‘different mouse-trap’, but a ‘better mouse trap’… But; What does ‘better’ mean? According to Seth Godin; this is a hard lesson for marketing and business development people to learn– they don’t get to decide what’s better, the customer does! If you look at the decisions made about– features, benefits, pricing… how many of them are obviously ‘better’ and how many people might disagree? Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door is one of the most quoted innovation credo: Yet it’s a myth…

Innovation experts call this the ‘better mousetrap fallacy’, because the credo focuses solely on technology and not on consumers… Consumers really don’t really care about a better mousetrap; they care about fewer mice… According to Ted Levitt; consumers don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole. But many organizations still seem to take this credo literally…

Even though it’s can damage the business– it gives the impression that building ‘better’ things is all that it takes to build a successful business… According to John Seiffer; it’s just not true, yet the comfort of believing it forces countless organizations to endure pain of failure despite having something better. So yes build ‘better’ mousetrap if so inclined, but if you are looking to build successful organization: Innovate or Die…

In the article Build Better Mousetrap by Corbett Barr writes: It’s a trap many organizations fall into: They believe that if they just come up with the elusive ‘better’ mousetrap, i.e.; product, service, widget, app… then they can build a successful organization… But just being ‘better’ will not get customers beating a path to your door… There are few big problems with idea of ‘better’: First, ‘better’ is worthless on its own– its only a multiplier of execution– it needs entire value support system…

Second, ‘better’ is rarely new: Often what you think is ‘better’ isn’t really ‘better’ at all… Your ‘better’ may have actually led others with the same definition of ‘better’ down a path to failure… Hence the issue is not ‘better’, but ‘different’ like innovative– and it does not necessarily have to be completely your own original idea. It’s what you ‘add’ and ‘do’ that makes you ‘better’; different, unique, relevant, valued…

In the article Myth: Just Build Better Mousetrap by Steve Denning writes: Most people know the saying; build ‘better’ mousetrap. Its become quite a popular maxim. It’s a catchy line but it’s really bad advice and can be a disaster for organizations that follows its logic:

  • Building ‘better’ mousetrap embodies an ‘inside-out’ mindset: It means that your thinking is oriented from ‘inside-out’, rather than from ‘outside-in’ the organization… The ‘inside-out’ perspective characterizes the 20th Century thinking, whereas the ‘outside-in’ represents the shift in power from seller-to-buyer and characterizes the new business reality… According to Professor Ranjay Gulati; firms with an ‘inside-out’ mindset are much less resilient than those that adopt an ‘outside-in’ mindset… The logic is simple; know and understand the customer, rather than just guessing…
  • Building ‘better’ mousetrap is a continuous improvement mindset: It means the task of management is simply to focus on efficiency and continuous improvement. In effect, the mousetrap must keep getting better for customers to be delighted… But there are limits to ‘better’, and at some point ‘better’ becomes obsolete… Hence, organizations must move beyond continuous improvement and beyond just making things better… They must do things different by disrupting the value of ‘better’ through innovation…

In the article Build Better Mousetrap by Claude Whitacre writes: Build a better’ mousetrap is metaphor for; an organization knows what customers want better than customers themselves… an organization knows how to delight customers better than customers themselves…  The ‘better’ mousetrap approach makes the assumptions that key factors are aligned– customer expectation, competitive advantage, valued-added, price/performance…

However, in a highly disruptive and innovative market environment, basic assumptions may not be correct, e.g.; Do consumers really want ‘better’ mousetrap? Is the mousetrap market growing or shrinking? Do consumers still want to trap mice? A credo built into ‘better mousetrap’ scenario is– technology in search of market. The notion of technology alone is ‘better’ can be expensive risk that an organization can avoid by answering few simple questions: Who is the customer? What is the problem to be solved? How big is the market? What is the added value? What support and service do customer expect?

The notion that an organization can offer same, or nearly the same, thing as competition but only a little bit ‘better’ is a tough strategy and it will definitely face a struggle to survive. According to Robert E. Johnston; when challenged to build ‘better’ mousetrap the typically approach is to find ways to make it– stronger, lighter, quieter, faster, cheaper, nicer design, less visible… among other obvious low-hanging improvements. This approach, done well, will produce incremental innovation, but seldom anything more...

However, it’s interesting to observe that when organizations are challenged to imagine beyond non-incremental (beyond ‘better’) to breakthrough innovation, it seems that many organizations often just start with the safety that comes from something that they know and already works. Hence the logic is very straight forward, e.g.; since this new innovative idea’s is already proven to be feasible, all the organization need to do is innovate new value into something that is already known, proven…

The logic is simple, less risk, good to go: Right? Yes perhaps, if what you are looking for is just incremental or modest innovation… But if objective is inflict major disruption in market(s), then a more disruptive non-incremental innovative (or breakthrough) approach is required– but initially its feasibility may be in question… It’s easier to build feasibility into innovation, than to build innovation into feasibilityHence, the biggest challenge in a highly competitive disruptive market environment is to breakthrough existing mindset of how something is currently conceived, and embrace ideas that are more innovative than feasible…

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