For a long time, Facebook’s famous motto was “move fast and break things”. Since then, it has subtly changed to be more punitive of “breaking things”. This change, no matter how subtle, is an important one and shows people’s desire to have things work. Innovation is important, but if dependability and consistency aren’t there to back it up, customers will find something else.
Apple is a prime example of the general public being more interested in using something that just works, rather than being amazed at something at the forefront of every technology. Apple, of course, is known for its extreme innovation in its complete restructuring of the way humans interact with technology on a daily basis via its revolutionary ideas for personal computers and smartphones. But looking past the big picture, Apple’s implementation is what has helped them to maintain a significant market share and even greater mindshare of the general public. Although Android phones might have a greater presence overall, their segmentation really brings Apple’s products to the forefront.
Part of what keeps iPhone users locked in is the so-called “walled garden” that is the Apple ecosystem; every device works together seamlessly. More than that, it just makes everything easier. From iMessage to AirDrop to Airpod compatibility and more, the more Apple devices you buy, the easier your Apple life becomes. And that same mentality is drilled down into the software as well. The homescreen is easy to use, the iCloud makes it easy to transition from one device to the next. Apple spends so much time and so much energy trying to make sure that their devices are as intuitive as possible. They test them in such a way that anyone can use them. While developing the iPad, Apple tested its functionality with a member of a remote tribe who had no experience with operating technology and their experience was just as smooth as it would be for you, the reader, who may very well be reading this on an iPad right now.
On the other end of the spectrum are poorly cobbled together products that attempt to do the incredible, but manage to be nothing more than mediocre because of the way that their resources are prioritized. Trying to make a task easier to accomplish by applying a computerized solution is noble, but if too many features get in the way of a well developed single idea, a working alternative will always be preferred by the majority of users. Simplicity and usability is almost always victorious over feature-rich, but unreliable products. Right now, consumers want reliability more than bells and whistles. Companies will adapt to allow innovation and stability to live in harmony so that we can all enjoy both.
I drew inspiration for this article from two main sources. The first is Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. It is essential reading for anyone remotely interested in technology.
The second source of inspiration is an article from Harvard Business Review: “The Era of ‘Move Fast and Break Things’ Is Over”. The article goes into the implications of ventures transitioning from prioritizing rapid development over methodical stability.