I was recently reminded of a hilarious phenomenon that started in Japan known as Chindogu. These are product inventions that are bizarre, hard to understand, and of very little utility. One key to Chindogu is that they are “un-useless” – there is some value they provide – however marginal, and even if realizing this value means experiencing all kinds of other complications. The creators/proponents of a Chindogu happily expound on their virtues, completely ignoring (or blissfully unaware of) the absurdity of their invention.
Somehow, it seemed hauntingly familiar. Many technology companies do the same thing, without the intention of being funny. They are simply so caught up with the technology itself, and genuinely excited about what it does, they don’t recognize that their creation – or more specifically – the way they position it – isn’t very valuable to their intended audience.
Take the Chindogu pictured above, for example. This chindogu ostensibly allows one to cool steaming hot noodles without having to blow on them. The fan is attached to the chopsticks! It’s faster! No matter that it’s clunkier, doesn’t work well or even creates a mess. It’s faster!!! And believe it or not in 2018, fast is STILL a major element of positioning for technology. Take Samsung and their S9.
Yes – fastest. For the sake of being fast. Now I ask you – how many of you are swayed by faster to the point you would switch? Very few of you would have ever taken this claim seriously. The cost of switching, learning a new interface, setting up your contacts and apps etc. was nowhere near worth the trouble in order to get a bit faster. Yet claims of being incrementally faster, better or more efficient are everywhere with tech companies. A bump in specs, an improvement in a technical aspect over a competitor is almost never the reason anyone purchases.
My second favorite type of Chindogu is a platform Chindogu. For example, dust mops are attached to baby clothes.
Who wouldn’t love these? Your baby becomes a way to clean the floor! A few years back, tech companies simply stated they were, “________ in the cloud.” (You fill in the blank – CRM, ERP, Ecommerce, Treasury, Expense Management, AP, Supply Chain, etc.) Just by virtue of being in the cloud you were somehow better. Just like being attached to a dustmop, your baby clothes are somehow enhanced. The big platforms today are blockchain and AI. Just put those words in front of anything else, and magically that thing becomes better, right? About as better as a dustmop on baby clothing. The mere movement of something familiar from one platform to another doesn’t enhance it. There is that whole thing about the cost of switching, and the risks entailed in that switch. Low adoption, less cost savings realized, incompatibility with other software/technology. The enterprise software marketer sees none of this, and can’t understand why its “________ with AI or blockchain” isn’t selling like hotcakes. Platforms aren’t value propositions.
So before you trot out your faster claim, or your claim about a better platform, ask yourself if it’s real, or just a Chindogu.