I consider myself a "product person". Counseling, consulting, and other types of mercenary work are cool short-term, but I'm not going to fool myself. In the end, I want to build (organically) something persistent and lasting that will stand out in comparison with the competition and make me proud as a creator.
Of course, it's possible to be proud of your work in a service-oriented endeavor. But the perspectives for the pay-out are significantly different. You can obtain a hefty margin for helping others, but building a product is an infinite game after all - the end-game potential is incomparable (putting the chances aside, obviously).
So I do have building products on my mind nearly all the time. I evaluate the ideas, look for inspirations, and do some research. But surprisingly, the last few years have made me reconsider everything I learned about effective ways of building a successful new product. Apparently, these days you're not supposed to look for the (business/end-user) value. Neither should you be aiming to make your users feel special/better - that's also not the point (at least directly).
To maximize the chances of your product succeeding, it has to be highly mimetic.
Wait, what? What does it even mean?
Mimesis itself is a deceptively simple concept - humans' instinctive tendency to imitate others indiscriminately. There are much better authorities on the topic than myself (I recommend this book), so pardon my simplified view presented here, but by "mimetic product", I mean a creation that:
- follows a popular trend
- mimic the popular product but in slightly different conditions (flavor)
- has been backed up (verbally) by people with sufficient follower base (because they always know better, right?)
What are the arguments for MMP (Minimal Mimetic Product) having a higher chance for success?
- If there's something people do not understand, they are inclined to follow the flock ("it's so progressive that we don't know YET how it could be put into a good use - but finding a use case is just a matter of time - once it happens, it will be to later to enter").
- People also do expect other people to follow the flock :) it's like recursive FOMO - no one wants to miss "The Next Big Thing" especially if they are convinced other won't miss it.
- Authorities are no more; there are only influencers. The ranges are new merit.
- With our shortened attention span and the omnipresent overload of meaningless information, the reasoning is now meme-based (instead of linear thinking-based).
Examples? Sure! Well, I won't use any actual names, but I believe you won't have any difficulties following my way of thinking here:
- the "Uber" for toilets: connects these with a WC and those with a need ... (because "gig economy all the things!")
- turning Instagram-like celebrity posts into NFTs, "obtainable" by fans (everything is better when turned into NFTs ...)
- automated sustainability assessments for the grocery shopping receipts (sustainability is too good hype to miss)
- AI-powered visual filters that turn your selfie into a chosen (or custom-made) Marvel superhero (those comics are pretty much the only form of written/drawn/recorded culture people consume these days)
- Yet Another Centralized Brokerage Service - for the decentralized world (enough of the tyranny of old monopolies, it's time for the new wave)
- Automated chatbot psychologist to address your mental issues (chatbots are cheap, and everything cheap is better, right?)
- low-budget "Second Life" clone, but rebranded to metaverse pioneering experience
Yes, I am sarcastic here. But just a bit. Until recently, we were all living in a startup investment bubble - the bloated valuations of startups based on a few ultra-successful cases (mimetics!) had made building nearly ANY startup a good idea - regardless of how ridiculous the product idea was. The main challenge was to find a parallel between your product and other successful product (mimetics!) to convince investors you can succeed!
But the business value got lost somewhere between the pitch deck slides.
It's not even a real criticism - just an observation. No blog post/evangelization could change that. Honestly, I'd rather go on with the flow (and earn some solid money) instead of crying in the corner of my room.
It's one of the oldest laws of humankind: the easiest and fastest way to get rich is at the expense of the fools in large quantities (who will finance it and even be thankful).