A Race To The Top

A Race To The Top We all want to increase sales. But to do do this, our products must offer a better value proposition – they must increase the goodness-to-cost ratio. And to do this we increase goodness and decrease cost. (No argument here – this is how everyone does it.) When new technologies mature, we design them in to increase goodness and change manufacturing and materials to reduce cost. Then, we sell. This is the proven cowpath. But there’s a problem.

The problem is everyone is thinking this way. You’re watching/developing the same technologies as your competitors; improving the same manufacturing processes; and trying the same materials. On its own, this a recipe for hyper-competition. But with the sinking economy driving more focus on fewer consumers, price is the differentiator. With this cowpath it’s a race to the bottom.

But there’s a better way where there are no competitors and millions (maybe billions) of untapped consumers clamoring for new products. Yes, it’s based on the time-tested method of improving the goodness-to-cost ratio, but there’s a twist – instead of more it’s less. The ratio is increased with less goodness and far less cost. Since no one in their right mind will take this less-with-far-less approach, there is no competition – it’s just you. And because you will provide less goodness, you must sell where others don’t – into the untapped sea of yet-to-be consumers of developing world. With less-with-far-less it’s a race to the top.

Technology is the most important element of less-with-far-less. By reducing some goodness requirements and dropping others all together, immature technologies become viable.  You can incorporate fledgeling technologies sooner and commercialize products with their unreasonably large goodness-to-cost ratios. The trick – think less output and narrow-banded goodness.

Immature technologies have improved goodness-to-cost ratios (that’s why we like them), but their output is low. But when a product is designed to require less output, previously immature technologies become viable. Sure, there’s a little less goodness, but the cost structure is far less – just right for the developing world.

Immature technologies are more efficient and smaller, but their operating range is small. But when a product is designed to work within a narrow band of goodness, technologies become viable sooner. Yes, the product does less, but the cost structure is far less – a winning combination for the developing world.

Less-with-far-less makes the product fit the technology – that’s not the hard part. And less-with-far-less makes the product fit the developing world – not hard. In our all-you-can-eat world, where more is seen as the only way, we can’t comprehend how less can win the race to the top. The hard part is less.

Less-with-far-less is not limited by technology or market – it’s limited because we can’t see less as more.

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Mike ShipulskiDr. Mike Shipulski brings together the best of Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, Axiomatic Design, TRIZ, and lean to develop innovative products and technologies. His blog can be found at Shipulski On Design.

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