Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Don't Overstuff Your Great Idea.

Many of us just spent Thanksgiving over-indulging on turkey, pecan pie, and dinner rolls.  I know that I certainly overstuffed myself, so that I could try at least a little bit of every single dish that crossed my path; who knew that there were so many possible varieties of casseroles in the world?  So, now I’m faced with the unfortunate choice of either buying bigger clothes or of subsisting on green leafy things for a couple weeks (until we do this all over again at Christmastime).

In product development, there can also be a temptation to overstuff.  In this case, we’re not talking about your aunt’s casseroles, but about all the wonderful features that a new product could have.  It’s very easy to want to add a new feature, use a new material, or grab a new marketing claim, because any one of these things could be the key to opening a new market space or outshining the competition.  Such changes and additions can be costly, and may or may not be justified, even if they increase market share.

To protect the innocent and the guilty in the following example, I’ve blended a few stories and changed industries, but this amalgam of anecdotes is representative of a situation I see all too often in product development. 

The client’s new tea kettle product concept was developing nicely.  It had some revolutionary new features, and was going out under a powerful brand name.  It would surely make a splash at the industry trade show.  But, a few months before the schedule called for tooling release, the client had a few epiphanies. 

Couldn’t we add a feature that let consumers make coffee using those cool Keurig cups? 

Well, yes, but the schedule…

Could we change the interface to a touchscreen, because the CEO really likes the idea of a touchscreen? 

Well, yes, but the schedule… 

‘We just want to launch a perfect product, even if that means pushing the schedule back.’ 


So, we pulled the development back a few levels, added the desired features, and launched a fantastic product, a year later.  The product entered the market and did well.  But, what about the year of sales and market opportunity that was lost while overstuffing the product with new features?  The product could easily have launched on schedule per the original specs, and been very successful.  Then, the company could have released the “super” version a year later and had two successful products on the market.
Bottom line is that every situation is different.  Often, though, it makes better sense from a business standpoint to launch a good product, then launch a great one, rather than continuing to develop and overstuff with features in search of the unattainable “perfect” product.


  1. Excellent point. I agree with you 0ne hundred percent.

  2. One thing you didn't discuss is the potential for increased costs for reverse logistics, customer care, and overall customer dissatisfaction with the new features if they don't work or create returns. The more you put into a product, the more there is to fail.

  3. Gefryjr, you're absolutely right! A lot of times, product developers like to be on the leading edge of new technologies and features, but they often end up on the bleeding edge. They end up making all the mistakes and paying for them. Then a competitor comes along and puts a product out without going through such a steep learning curve.

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