Everyone knows Newton’s First Law of Motion: An object at rest will stay at rest until moved by an external force. The same is true with products.
I’ve been a Product Manager for about 15 years, working in a variety of markets, and primarily focused on B2B or niche B2C products and platforms. And the one thing that seems to be consistent is that once a product comes to rest, it takes an incredible feat of will to get it moving again.
Take, for example, your typical B2B solution — originally build 4–5 years ago to solve a specific problem for a specific set of users and use cases. Then, as a victim of its own success, additional capabilities were bolted on as needed, guided likely by nothing more than the vision of the CEO and the requests of the company’s biggest customers. Little attention paid to general marketability of the solution, and even less paid to the user experience — at least at the end user level.
After 5 years, the product is moderately successful, but has come to rest — the prospects keep buying it, and the customers keep using it. But what’s hiding underneath all that success is a cancer. Because the product has come to rest, it will stagnate quickly, fall behind technologically, and become prey to the next up-and-comer who sees the opportunity in solving the same set of problems with more finesse and likely with more private funding.
The solution here is ostensibly an easy one, though in practice it seems too difficult for many companies to grok — don’t let your product come to rest. Stay innovative, stay creative, stay on the edge of what your customers need, and not responsive to what they say they want.
Recall that the corollary to objects at rest staying at rest is that objects in motion tend to stay in motion — make sure your product is always moving, always growing, always adapting to the world around it. Or someone else will.
[…] In a prior installment, I discussed how the concepts of Newton’s First Law of Motion might be understood and adapted to the world of Product Management. Since writing that piece, I thought it would be interesting to create similar pieces for the other two Laws that Newton originally expounded. While this sounds kind of easy — and it is for the First and Third laws — the Second Law was troubling me for a bit. […]