How to time product launches perfectly

Here’s a contrasting tale of two Apple products that struck me recently.  Wired Magazine carried a story about Apple’s 1983 design for an ‘iTablet’ here. Twenty-seven years later and the iPad is finally launched.  In 1989, Apple did start developing the Apple Newton, an early personal digital assistant.  Despite brilliant, breakthrough functionality, the Newton was canned in 1998, following a prolonged commercial flop.

Premature genius and the art of timing

Premature genius is one of the most overlooked challenges of product development.  To visualise the problem, think of a change curve.  Launch too early and no amount of marketing and development spend will get you to take off.  Launch too late and you may not catch up with competitors.

There’s an important nuance in the story about the Apple Newton.  It may have seemed like a failure.  But, an ex-Apple staffer tells me that there’s a direct line of sight between the technical and human lessons which Apple learned on the Newton and the huge success of iPod and iPhone.  No Newton, no iPod, no iPhone.

Three key disciplines for perfect launch timing

New product development needs to be framed in the present and future.  There are three key disciplines for achieving that:

  1. Trend analysis.  Create private foresight out of public knowledge by identifying precisely what trends affect your product idea and understanding exactly where you are on the change curve.
  2. Invest in corporate memory of rejected ideas and failed products.  Put in place structured PRINCE2 style lessons learned documentation.  Put old concepts on ice and review them regularly.
  3. Identify the modular“components” of innovation be it an insight into customer needs, a process or technology.  An entire concept may not have worked, but many of its building blocks could be entirely sound.

About Simon Kirby

Digital strategist, CX advisor and agile Product Owner. My core expertise is aligning the political, strategic and human factors that determine the success of digital, CX and innovation projects. Doing that helps organisations deliver better experiences, happier customers, distinctive propositions and improved commercial bottom-line

4 Responses to How to time product launches perfectly

  1. There was a great article several years ago from the excellent Peter Day on the BBC. It talks about the earliest days of search engines and contains the great quote “being early is the same as being wrong”.

  2. stephen doran says:

    I love the term premature genius, it removes much of the negativity around being a bit too early with something and for anyone who has experienced that ‘we tried that 2 years ago and it didn’t work’ from members of their teams it’s a great way to start the ball rolling again. nice site Simon.

  3. “Put old concepts on ice and review them regularly” Not enough of that happening round here, as Steven says, the challenge is getting people out of the “been there, done that mindset”

  4. Chris says:

    “Premature genius” – thank you, now I know exactly where I’ve been going wrong all these years 😉

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