Product drag is a consequence of letting context and history limit choices in the development of new products. It is an organizational force that slows down innovation. It’s the reason huge companies with insurmountable leads get beat by smaller faster-moving competitors.
- We’re still paying back out sunk costs.
- We already tried that.
- That’s not our brand.
- It will eat away at our existing business.
“If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will.” – Steven Jobs
The Innovator’s Dilemma describes a flavor of product drag. It says big companies struggle to create products for emerging markets because the revenue from these smaller emerging markets is insufficient to meet their growth goals. Consequently, when the emerging markets become mainstream, big companies are overtaken by the small companies that had a head start in serving the emerging market. —- The big company cannot overcome the drag creating by the perspective of being big and needing big numbers.
Champion chess players can play a dozen games at once because they see each move as simply a puzzle to find the best move from the current position. How they got to that position is irrelevant.
Other flavors of product drag:
- We can’t look at this new product. It jeopardizes our relationship with our existing supplier / partner.
- It’s not worth investing in this product if it doesn’t appeal to our biggest customers.
- If we pursue this, it will tick off Mrs. VP of Something.
If product drag goes unchecked, a business can struggle to find any way to innovate without bumping into some kind of imaginary barrier.
Follow the north star of growing your value to your customers from your current position, without consideration for how you got to your current position.