Is Your Product Interim or Long Term?

Sheet music has been around for centuries, and most composers prefer the fine experience of writing directly on the staffs to create. As we edged into the mid 20th century, an American by the name of Robert Keaton, created a very innovative music typewriter, The Keaton Music Typewriter. It was sold for around $255. and, for a period, did quite well. This is an example of a product innovation that is profitable, but interim.

Image from Music Printing History

Today of course, you can just use a computer to write your music and easily print it out. It is easily shared to millions of people and made publicly available searchable. Keaton at the time, could not have known how information technologies would advance, or how rapidly.

There is nothing wrong about developing and launching interstitial or interim products. Many times, the innovator won’t know it’s an interstitial product. Good research and an understanding of how products in a given market segment have evolved can help. Consulting with other innovators or companies in an industry can help, but some will block certain information if they think you might compete with them or block them.

Even if you know your product may be interim in the scheme of technology evolution, it can be extremely profitable. If it is a physical product, it means finding ways to keep the capital required to manufacture and distribute it as low as possible, while still delivering quality. A quality product is critical in todays world of social media where consumers will decide its viability. Very quickly. There are several ways to do this effectively.

You are reliant on speed and it’s a risk. Move too slow, the product that wipes it out will come along. Move too fast and you may miss key opportunities and quality factors.

You don’t have to invest huge amounts at the start, but you do need to validate people want to buy it. The idea of “product-market fit” is silly to begin with.

And be careful when collecting all your data. If you went to B-school, your stats classes taught you all about data, using representative sample sizes and for years has downplayed using intuition. There’s a problem here. All that data? It’s historical. There is no data in the world that is future looking. Use data, but also use intuition. You can’t de-risk 100% and you have to take a flyer at some point.

Knowing the risks, if you can, ahead of time is critical when you realise your solution is interim. If you realise your product is going to be viable for a long time, in that technology isn’t going to outpace it quickly, then you’re in a space where you can take more time and play in the usual way.

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