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What Apple can Teach us About Patience

Business moves fast these days. New ideas come out of nowhere, quickly take hold, and suddenly go from novel to generally accepted to passé. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by this process and to think that in order to be successful, you have to bring your idea to fruition in record time. While you can’t spend forever polishing a product until it’s absolutely perfect, there’s also a strong case to be made about patience. Specifically, making sure that what you offer is great and not merely good or acceptable.

An excellent example of this is Apple. The company known for innovation is also sometimes criticized for taking a long time to bring things to market. Why did it take so long for the retina display to come to the iMac? Why did it take so long for word prediction to come to iOS? Why did it take so long for large-screen iPhones to be released? Any why are we still waiting for the Apple Watch, when the competition has had smart watches out there for what feels like ages?

The reason? Jony Ive provided hinted at an answer during his “Genius by Design” panel at the Vanity Fair Summit:

“Many years ago we made prototypes of phones with bigger screens. They were interesting features… but the end result was a lousy product, because they were big and clunky.”

Lousy products are bad. They’re bad because they don’t sell. That’s obvious. But they’re also bad from a branding perspective as well. Lousiness sends a bad image about a company. It says, “We didn’t care enough.” That negativity grows like a mould and infests future products. Suddenly, new products launches don’t have the same excitement they once had. People become less interested­—not because the new product isn’t great, but because the last one was mediocre. Then the brand has a new challenge: erase the past to keep the sheen on the present and future.

So how do you stop this from happening? It’s not easy. There’s a lot of pressure to get things out there fast. But what you have to do is audit the product against your brand at critical milestones during the development process (conceptualization, prototyping, etc). At each step, the product team has to ask some key questions:

  • Is this at least as good as what we’ve already done? Your last product was successful because of great features. Does this one have great features too?

  • Is this in line with what our brand stands for? If you’re all about ease of use, is this new product easy to use?

  • When people who know our brand use this product for the first time, what’s their initial reaction? Is their instinctive reaction positive… or negative?

  • If we released this today, would we be 100% happy with of it? Or would you have a small nagging feeling in your head that this isn’t quite up to snuff?

There are more questions to be asked. Think of the ones that are appropriate to your company and ask them. Whatever you do, don’t be one of those companies that gets people thinking: “Imagine how many people had to sign off on this thing… and not one of them said, wait a sec—this sucks?”

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