Stand Still (Passive Obsolescence)

Successful products become obsolete simply by standing still.

This phenomena justifies ongoing innovation and improvement in product and services. The idea that products can sustain their position in the marketplace by repeating successful past behaviors has a great of appeal to traditional business management.   Organizational leaders may be distantly aware that someday a new product will come along that will make current offering obsolete, it is hard to grasp the rate or inevitability of obsolescence. 

Multiple 21st Century market drivers fuel the unremitting speed that products are pushed Below The Bar of minimal acceptable performance.      Here are some of the forces at work.

  • Technological Change – The most obvious.  All sorts of technologies and knowledge itself advance at an exponential rate, doubling every two to three years.  This means that the rate of obsolescence is increasing, with the advantage provided by a given technical advance being eroded at an ever quicker pace.
  • Competitive Evolution – It doesn’t take new technology to drive change.   A billion ambitious competitors are staying up late, looking for ways to gain advantage by combining technologies, apply existing tools in new ways, or fixing a persistent shortcoming in execution. 
  • Market Segmentation – Products in the Mushy Middle are vulnerable to niche market poaching by players who  more closely align their value with selected customer needs.  Small High Fidelity niches  erode the old market bit by bit.
  • High Fidelity to High Convenience – When costs and hassles burdening an offering are removed, premium High Fidelity experiences can be transformed into common conveniences.  High margin pricing and market exclusivity are lost to low cost, high volume providers.

Each of these forces changes the way consumers view older products and services.  In the customer’s eyes the bar is raised, and the past satisfactory performance is no longer sufficient.   The product sinks into the Mushy Middle or even worse drops out of the market as it falls Below The Bar.   

Takeaway

You can’t stand still. 

A Good Read

Seth Godin discusses concepts surrounding buyer choices in “XXXXXX” .      Lexus and the Olive Tree?

Brainstorming Questions

  • What do our Buyers get from our product / service?  What is their value?
  • Has the bar been raised in this market?  By who?  In what ways?
  • Are there new ways this value could be delivered?  New technologies?  New approaches?
  • Are better niche options emerging?  Who is the target audience? What’s special about the offering?
  • Are there cheaper easier alternative emerging?  For whom are these options “good enough”?

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