Smartphone designers & Young Me Moon in action.

Back in October, when I was listening to Young Me Moon at Business of Software, she talked about her book Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd which is about how to be, DIFFERENT. This really resonated when I read this funny post by Sami Paihonen, ex Director of User Design at Samsung.

From my notes at the time: How can you differentiate between 50 brands of bottled water in one supermarket? In almost every instance, the managers of each and every one of those executives can tell you EXACTLY why and how their brand is different to the others. Sadly, for real people, no one cares very much. It doesn't start out like this:

Choice – sparkling or still?"

Choice - sparkling or still?

But soon escalates:

Water water everywhere how which drop to drink?

Water water everywhere, now which drop to drink?"

Supermarkets are not consumer friendly anymore. They are intimidating.

And then the supermarket looks intimidating.

Real difference has become rare in business. I was reminded of how true her whole thesis was when I came across this excellent blog post by Sami Paihonen, ex Director of User Design at Samsung and now Head of User Experience Design Services at Ixonos.

Probably without knowing Young Me's book, he wrote this quick recipe for a smart phone.

Swiss Army Knife

It probably took him about 10 minutes to spec out a complete Smart Phone (and the rationale behind each choice) including chip, Memory, Flash Memory, Screen, Battery, Camera, Supported Media, Social Networking, Location, OS.

Then, when it comes to the product category;

"Our device is ultimate time and people management tool, amazing music phone, tremendous media center, unrivaled social network hub, excellent navigation device, best-in-class internet surfing board, pack along with intuitive UI. Who could be the customers for this…? hmm… Who would not be customer for this super smartphone! No need to categorize this beast, it is simply too awesome to be put in some category!"

Read the full spec, and the rationale behind it here – I can hear the sound of a million product teams reading this and saying, "Let's go!" This is all too depressingly familiar and Sami parodies the process perfectly.

From Young Me Moon at the Business of Software again. If you are actually looking for an Outlier solution, you should not rely on the views of others. What would you expect a manager to improve?

Market research suggests
Market research suggests…

But all that happens then is a more mulchy solution – particularly when you multiply that across a ton of companies in the industry. Why not try the lopsided solution? The more crowded and competitive market you are in, the more you need to be lopsided.

Accentuate the positive, ignore the negative and be different...
Accentuate the positive, ignore the negative and be different…

Sami though, does give me some hope that somewhere, people aren't just aiming to make the highest specified product across all known possible dimensions.

"Why I wanted to show you this “product planning” in action was to show the current status of mainstream smartphone competition; mobile device market is driven by too much the same. And if something is driven by too much the same, then it becomes easily specification war; who has the longest and most impressive product specifications.

"So my humble wish is for every product planning people in the companies in this market; please think before introducing another boring, dull, uninspiring specification monster. What the world needs is inspiring products, which simply work and don’t fail to meet expectations. Everything between those must be designed, not just thrown in product specifications.

"And that design, my friends, is user experience design."

Nice thought Sami, but from what I see on the market today, no one is listening. When someone does, they will discover the power of different. If you want to be different…

  • You have to be willing to ignore your critics
  • You have to be able to ignore your customers as well
    • Just ask Google, Facebook, Apple (though most of them won't respond)

Different and crazy can look the same at first.

Go on! Bet you are too chicken to try!