Product do come first
Unlike me, however, most customers came to depend on Johnson’s letters. Most wrote him back. They’d tell him about their lives, their troubles, their injuries, and Johnson would lavishly console, sympathize, and advise. Especially about injuries. Few in the 1960s knew the first thing about running injuries, or sports injuries in general, so Johnson’s letters were often filled with information that was impossible to find anywhere else. [..] Some customers freely volunteered their opinion about Tigers, so Johnson began aggregating this customer feedback, using it to create new design sketches. One man, for instance, complained that Tiger flats didn’t have enough cushion. He wanted to run the Boston Marathon but didn’t think Tigers would last the twenty-six miles. So Johnson hired a local cobbler to graft rubber soles from a pair of shower shoes into a pair of Tiger flats. Voilà.
Creating a habit, the Pepsodent case
A prominent American executive named Claude C. Hopkins was approached by an old friend with a new business idea. The friend had discovered an amazing product, he explained, that he was convinced would be a hit. It was a toothpaste, a minty, frothy concoction he called “Pepsodent.” To sell Pepsodent, then, Hopkins needed a trigger that would justify the toothpaste’s daily use. He sat down with a pile of dental textbooks. “It was dry reading,” he later wrote. “But in the middle of one book I found a reference to the mucin plaques on teeth, which I afterward called ‘the film.’ That gave me an appealing idea. I resolved to advertise this toothpaste as a creator of beauty. To deal with that cloudy film.” In focusing on tooth film, Hopkins was ignoring the fact that this same film has always covered people’s teeth and hadn‘t seemed to bother anyone. The film is a naturally occurring membrane that builds up on teeth regardless of what you eat or how often you brush.-" People had never paid much attention to it, and there was little reason why they should: You can get rid of the ?lm by eating an ...
Mirror neurons at work
IN 2004, STEVE JOBS, CEO, chairman, and co-founder of Apple, was strolling along Madison Avenue in New York City when he noticed something strange, and gratifying. Hip white earphones (remember, back then most earphones came in basic boring black). Looping and snaking out of people’s ears, dangling down across their chests, peeking out of pockets and purses and backpacks. They were everywhere. “It was, like, on every block, there was someone with white headphones, and I thought, ‘Oh, my God, it’s starting to happen,’ ” Jobs, who’d recently launched his company’s immensely successful iPod, was quoted as saying.
You could term the popularity of the iPod (and its ubiquitous, iconic white headphones) a fad. Some might even call it a revolution. But from a neuroscientific point of view, what Jobs was seeing was nothing less than the triumph of a region of our brains associated with something called the mirror neuron. In 1992, an Italian scientist named Giacomo Rizzolatti and his research team in Parma, Italy, were studying the brains of a species of monkey—the macaque—in the hopes of finding out how the brain organizes motor behaviors. Specifically, they were looking at a region of ...
Apparently sprinters reach their highest speed right out of the blocks, and spend the rest of the race slowing down. The winners slow down the least. It's that way with most startups too. The earliest phase is usually the most productive. That's when they have the really big ideas. Imagine what Apple was like when 100% of its employees were either Steve Jobs or Steve Wozniak.
The striking thing about this phase is that it's completely different from most people's idea of what business is like. If you looked in people's heads (or stock photo collections) for images representing "business," you'd get images of people dressed up in suits, groups sitting around conference tables looking serious, Powerpoint presentations, people producing thick reports for one another to read. Early stage startups are the exact opposite of this. And yet they're probably the most productive part of the whole economy.
Why the disconnect? I think there's a general principle at work here: the less energy people expend on performance, the more they expend on appearances to compensate. More often than not the energy they expend on seeming impressive makes their actual performance ...