By: one-third of the market. And that’s as Uber continued to get bombarded with controversies and reported scandals.
Yet the first-mover advantage is often little more than a myth, and there are countless examples of latecomers coming away as the eventual victors. Atari and Diners Club, for example, built their respective industries from the ground up, only to become minor players down the road. Having seen the “first but failed” story too many times, most top executives today will tell you that the real value is in being able to compare dissimilar opportunities and make smarter plays.
Apple shows us how being late to the game can be just as advantageous as being first. The iPod wasn’t the first portable music player. It wasn’t even the first MP3 player for that matter. As other companies released MP3 players, Apple sat back, observed where there were pitfalls among existing offerings, and created a solution that noticeably outperformed the competition on key dimensions. It offered far greater storage capacity, faster file transfers, and a high-quality software component for buying and organizing music collections. Despite taking a wait-and-see approach, the iPod captured roughly 70% market share.
So should companies be more like Apple or more like Uber? Is the story of the iPod just dated? Could it be that in today’s world the pace of change is simply too fast to risk being late to the game? In reality, whether it makes sense to be a first-mover depends on a few important factors, which I outline below. Even though it may not always pay to be faster, it does always pay to be smarter. Here are three steps smart companies take to make sure they’re making the right decision about where, when, and how to play.
Spot opportunities that are nascent but enticing. If you’re responding to moves that your competitors made, you’ve already missed the opportunity to decide whether you should be first. That’s why it’s important to look not just at emerging trends, but also to become truly customer-centric. When you understand what jobs your customers are struggling to accomplish today, you’ll have an array of options for responding to those unmet needs. Find the problems that are a big deal to a large number of people, and work from there.
Jobs to be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation.
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NEW MARKETS ADVISORS