Just Because Another Company Or Product Does Things A Certain Way, It Doesn’t Mean You Need To
I get annoyed by articles that look at big tech companies (the usual suspects being Amazon, Apple, Google) that do certain things, and how you should too.
I’m sure you’ve seen the articles like the following:
- 5 key takeaways from Amazon’s customer service process that can improve your company
- Eight ways to make your company more like Google
- Five things you can learn from Mark Zuckerberg by how he eats breakfast (#3 will shock you)
My issue with these articles isn’t that they break things down into bite-sized chunks. The problem is when people look at these chunks, pick them up, and try to apply them in their own company or product without understanding the reasoning behind it.
You can’t just pick jigsaw pieces from another puzzle set and try to shove them into the puzzle you are working on.
Do you understand why other companies do things a certain way?
Do you understand why they’ve made their product a certain way? I’m not just talking product features – I’m talking about the things that are intangible, the thing that make that product their own creation.
These intangible factors are hard to describe and write about.
Try taking a piece of DNA from another company and splicing into your own, and it’s not going to work out.
That’s foolish: You need to take a step back and take a look at the reasoning behind what others are doing.
- You can give me all the equipment (guitars, effect pedals, amps) that Jimi Hendrix used, give me the exact settings he used, but I wouldn’t be Jimi Hendrix. Give Jimi Hendrix a $70 guitar from a pawn shop and a $50 practice warmup amp and he’d still run circles around you and you would know that it’s him playing.
- Take Tiger Woods in his peak. Give me all his best equipment. Give Tiger equipment from the early 20th century, and he’d still run circles around me in a round of golf.
You could give people the same resources, the same procedures from other companies, make a carbon copy of them, but have nowhere near the same success, because you didn’t understand the why behind why they do things. That’s why you can’t just clone a product by getting it developed offshores for cheap without understanding the intangible factors behind the product. It’s missing the heart and soul.
That intangible factor is priceless and hard to quantify, much to the chagrin of people who think that everything can be quantified.
To be clear, I’m not saying that you should not get influenced by the works and practices of other companies.
You should! Be influenced by the world around you. It’s a great idea to take bits, pieces, and chunks from processes of other companies, examine them, and find ways to mold them that it fits with your product and company. You can look at these chunks and twist them so that you can fit them into your puzzle. You can also make tweaks on your side as well. Companies do this all the time.
One example I want to discuss would be the lean startup, a methodology that many seem to understand, but seem to fall short in its execution.
There are some very good principles behind the lean startup, yet I feel that too many people try to just take it as it is, drop it into their company and their culture, and expect everything to take care of itself. You need to adjust it accordingly to fit in with your culture.
I wanted to include a bit here from a post I found that discusses the Lean Startup Methodology.
Lean Startup Methodology focuses on building what customers will use, not what you think they will use. It values eliminating waste, maximizing learning, and measuring results. Iterating through the Build-Measure-Learn loop quickly is the goal.
Many folks miss the maximizing learning part of Lean. They build products quickly, release them to customers, and ask them if they like it. As soon as they get a yes or see a bit of traction, they think they are done. They stop talking to customers, and just keep building. Soon customers are out of the feedback loop. If you are focusing more on building your solution than learning from your customers, you are not Lean.
I’ve known companies where people came from other companies and inject some principles and ideas from prior companies with various levels of success.
If they’re forming new processes, getting in at that ground level to create these processes can work. However, depending on how different the cultures are at the company, it may not work out whatsoever, or major changes have to be made. This can result in forced change that upper management wants to see, but those further down can see the writings on the wall. We’ve all heard of plenty of great companies lose their way when other outsiders are added to the team, and try to shove certain things down the throats of others, without realizing the consequences. Just because it worked somewhere else, it doesn’t mean it will work the way you want it to elsewhere.
There is nothing wrong with change, but when you try change for the sake of change without thinking about the long term impacts, that is when things can easily go astray.
You have to be your own company, your own product, and your own Product Manager .
Yes, take influence and ideas from others, find ways that fit with your company culture, and see what happens. However, don’t do something because all the other companies are doing it. Understand why it works for them, and see if it will work for you.
To repeat, you can’t just take a piece of a different companies DNA and splice it into your own without thinking of the consequences.