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What Are You Willing To Break?

Facebook, arguably one the most innovative companies in the world, is right up there against Apple (although I’d argue that they are more innovative than Apple, even though some of their UX is ghastly) has the following motto:

“Move fast and break things”

That sounds pretty good. Unfortunately, I think plenty of companies look at that motto and say – yeah, we do the same things. We move fast and break things.

But the question really is – what are you breaking?

I find that there is a huge gap between what most companies provide and what most customers want. Customers, when dealing with companies, want to complete a specific task. Typically, they don’t want to spend time learning about your company, understanding what they do, or getting to know your people. Instead, as Clayton Christensen discovered in his Jobs-To-Be-Done theory, customers want to get a job done.

Business, on the other hand, has a different mandate. They exist to increase shareholder value – increase the business value – and usually through improving profitability. The path to improving profitability can only come from two sources – reducing costs or increasing willingness to pay. Simplified – you either spend less to make your widget – or make the customer feel that it is worth more than it is – and will therefore wish to pay more for it.

Of course, most companies take the easy way out and cut costs – but that only goes so far. Once you’ve done all you can on that front, you need to determine your customer’s willingness to pay more. To do that, you need to get a deep er understanding of what your customers truly desire.

This is one of the reasons design thinking is having a shining moment – it’s positioned as a panacea for companies who seem to have lost their way – those who have focused on increasing profitability at the expense of meeting their customer’s desires. Design thinking is the solution – get your customer in the same room (literally and figuratively) and let them tell you what they need through a deep dive into their surface and deep desires. Then, once you’ve done that, you apply agile project management to build what they need.

Unfortunately, this is where the major discrepancies occur. Once you dig into your customer’s desires, you realize that you are miles away from delivering the experience that the customer wants. You realize that to deliver even a small portion of what your customer is looking for, you will need to “break things” – things that have been working great for you (but not so much for your customers). You will have to change your products and processes and sometimes your people to meet your customers where they are – and get them to be willing to pay more for your product.

  • Are you willing to meet your customers where they are instead of having them bend to your requirements?
  • Are you willing to “break things” that work for you but don’t work for your customers?
  • Are you willing to “move fast and break things” in your quest to meet or exceed your customer’s desires?

If not, can you really say that you are innovating?


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