It all starts with the experience, dummy! And I don’t mean how pretty it looks or what slick polish sits on top of what you build.
Every business and every technology is hired to do certain jobs in people’s lives. The job may be as obvious as “I need a smartphone to answer work emails on the go” or as irrational as “I buy a milkshake for breakfast because my commute is boring and it keeps me busy.”
Businesses big and small (yes, even you startups) continually focus on tasks and features. Iterating on new features. That’s great and can sustain businesses for years or even decades.
The problem is, the disruptive companies focus on experiences: people and activities.
Tasks and Features get you something functional, reliable, usable, and maybe even convenient. Organizations have trouble crossing the chasm into pleasurable and meaningful: the things that make a product exciting. When technology delivers basic needs (functional, reliable, etc.) it’s the experience that dominates1. This is illustrated in Stephen Anderson‘s User Experience Hierarchy of Needs:
Illustration by Ben Jordan.
In technology, tasks and features are commoditized. We don’t need more, faster, and smaller.
Today, you win by shifting your thinking from a bottom up feature approach to a top down experience approach. You start with people and the activities customers want to complete by asking the question “what job are you hiring XYZ to do”. You find the “struggling moments” and improve those.
Unfortunately, most organizations and even start ups still start with a list of features or things they want to build. People don’t consume features. They experience activities that add to their lives.
Start by asking “What struggle do I want to solve in people’s lives.” We all have a lot struggles that need to be solved2.