It's surprising how long it takes for even those of us who think we're fairly astute and self-aware to realize that certain behaviors, in retrospect, seem frightfully obvious. I don't want to appear to be piling on here, but I have to admit that I've put my Apple Watch aside because-; in a ridiculously short amount of time-; the novelty wore off. It swiftly turned from a necessity into a nuisance. I've already got plenty of those in my life, so taking on another chore and charging another device wasn't high on my list. And I'm not alone.
I'm convinced that my personal reaction isn't unique. That it's actually part of an increasingly common consumption pattern. We need to find a new term to describe this recurring phenomenon because it's only going to become more prevalent. The truth is that I've been talking about the problem for a couple of years now and, more specifically, the risks it poses to new businesses trying to introduce new products and services.
Early adopters are becoming even more rapid rejecters. If we're fairly quick these days to try new things, the big change in our behaviors is that we're far more unforgiving and demanding of them. We're dumping things that just don't cut it at an ever-faster rate. The abandonment curve is probably 10 times steeper than the adoption curve on new products. You've got to get it right-;right away-;because the world doesn't wait and you rarely, if ever, get a second chance or bite at the apple. The foolish fad of Minimum Viable Products is over-;trying to release a half-baked MVP to a voracious but highly critical and choosy marketplace is simply suicide.
Maybe it's all about living in a world where we've come to expect instant gratification in all things, but it goes deeper than that. If you're going to try to launch a new product these days, even if you have the best designers and marketers in the world, you need to take a longer look at how we live and the five major dimensions/distractions of our daily lives and build those considerations into your offerings and launch plan. If your products aren't properly aligned and consistent with how we behave and/or if you haven't developed a strategy to address each of these areas and potentially help change the underlying behaviors, your product will quickly move from smart to superfluous. In today's social world, you can fly from being the "belle of the ball" to being the "butt" of late night jokes in a flash.
In addition, once you do launch, you better have a team set and ready to help you authentically manage (yes, I realize that's somewhat of an oxymoron) the word of mouth and the inevitable and highly-opinionated conversations that are sure to follow. There are no vacuums left in today's world of social media, which means that, if you're not talking about your products and driving the discussion as much as possible, someone else will be.
We talk about free will, but we are all creatures and captives of our habits. And our days are dictated to a far greater degree than we understand by the 5 C's: conversations, conventions, comparisons, compromises and chores. Think of these as multi-dimensional descriptors-; some are more like scales, some are buckets of conclusions, some are expressions and choices, and some are points of reference and departure.
As you try to make sense of where the Watch is headed, and as you plan the introduction and rollout of your own new products or services, look out for these early indicators:
As surprising as it may be in this "all-talk, all-the-time" world, we still learn the most by listening. A large part of everyone's day is still consumed by conversations. The difference is that in the old days, conversations were largely consensual, two-way deals. Today, not so much. There have always been braggarts, blowhards and bullies, but today it seems that everyone's his own outbound broadcaster (regardless of whether they have anything to say) and opinions, not necessarily facts, are omnipresent whether we've asked for them or not.
We're trapped in this awful place between TMI (tiresome) and TMZ (tawdry or worse), but the aggregate direction of the conversation's flow is still important and instructive. Ominously, the talk about the Watch is already shifting in tone from high-energy advocacy and endorsements ("Can't live without it") to more moderate and measured discussions about value and utility. From religious fervor to reasonable analysis is never the way you want the talk about your "gee-whiz" product to progress. It's a slippery slope and the Watch is already headed in the wrong direction. Just listen to the folks talking on the train.
We're not all sheep or lemmings, but we do still love to follow the crowd and the standard conventions in most things. And, very often, the entire compliance process is so internalized and unconscious that we don't even realize what's going on. You may imagine that your new watch is going to be a great messaging device, but the guy sitting opposite you in the meeting thinks you're an inattentive asshole who keeps looking at his watch and wishing that the meeting can't be over soon enough. Not exactly the message you want to be sending to that important client or customer.
If you're old enough, you'll recall that a certain President named Bush not too many years ago probably lost an entire Presidential debate because he got caught sneaking a peek at his watch instead of paying attention to the discussion. The message was clear-; he wanted badly to be somewhere else-; and the millions of people watching on TV felt that he was disconnected and that they were being dissed. It's almost the same for younger employees who try to be conscientious and take their meeting notes on their phones while the elders in the room see them as insufferable idiots who are checking their email and newsfeeds instead of focusing on matters at hand.
And then there's the basic question of who wants or needs to wear a watch anyway these days? Certainly no one under 30. We're completely surrounded by digital devices and the time is everywhere. Telling the world to take two steps backwards to re-adopt a device that was once essential, but which is now largely extraneous, makes no sense at all.
We generally like to proceed from the familiar and not stray too far from the tried and true in our decisions-;especially about new devices and technologies. And we never want to be the guy testing the depth of the puddle by jumping in with both feet since that puddle might just be a sewer or a well. The way we manage this process day by day is by constantly performing mental comparisons-; how much is something new basically the same and how much does it differ? How big a leap of faith will the transition require and how deep is the chasm? And ultimately-; and most of all-; are the differences actually improvements that are worth the price of change, the costs of acquisition, the pain of the mistakes due to trial and error, and the time spent on new training and learning curves?
We are all realistic enough to know that there's no free lunch and that no new products are pain free. So we look at how well our current tools and technologies serve our needs and then compare the new products or services to the old. In the overall scheme of things, it's hard to make the case that the Watch brings that much new to the party. It's a lot less clunky. It's got a bevy of nice and expensive bands. It's got most of the same apps as my phone, but only a few that have already been successfully transitioned to mini-mobile use. And not much more to set it apart for half a dozen other devices.
But really the worst sign of all is that we're engaged in measuring and comparing at all. The best and most compelling products never even get this kind of a down-and-dirty review and product proctology. They're a passion, not a process. You take them on faith. And that's the kind of connection that you can also take to the bank.
Our lives are all about choices and compromises; we make these coin flips every day. Unfortunately, the lion's share of them are rarely between diamonds and rubies. Very often they're "either/or" selections between okay and not so good. So when we do have something to say about these decisions, the analysis often goes like this: (a) is it going to save me time; (b) is it going to save me money; or (c) will it make me smarter or more productive? And, more recently, (d) will it increase my status?
We're willing to make deals every day but we have to believe that there's some actual value in each transaction to make it worthwhile. When you run the Watch through this calculus, it's hard to make much of an argument in its favor. If you apply the traditional tests (time, money, and productivity), there's not a lot to hang your hat on and absolutely nothing that your phone alone won't pretty much do for you already. Ask yourself what it really buys you to have your watch tell you to take your phone out of your pocket so you can do something. And when you get to questions around status, all I can say is Glass. Just remind yourself how quickly the Google Glass went from cool to creepy to compost. It's just a matter of time before people will start to check out your Watch and quietly wonder if you didn't get the memo.
We're all beyond busy these days and things aren't gonna get better any time soon so the last thing we need is more chores. Keeping our critical devices charged is enough of a hassle as it is and worrying every night about your Watch as well is just too much. And I'm pretty sure that having my phone ping my Watch all day long over Bluetooth is sucking the juice more quickly out of my phone as well. And don't get me started on the question of what kind of fitness monitor the thing can be when it's sitting on your desk charging for a few hours instead of being on your wrist keeping score. I've written about battery failure and Fitbit anxiety before. (See Fitbit Anxiety Is Part Of A Larger Problem) But until someone really makes an 18-hour watch battery, I'm just not a believer.
So that's my take. These are just my humble opinions. And while I may be lonely for some time-;just you watch-;I won't be alone for long.