For IDG Connect, Dan Swinhoe interviewed me on Mindsense’s progress over the last few years. One of his questions was particularly interesting, so I’m reposting it here. Be sure to read the full interview if you wish.
Dan’s question: Dropbox and Evernote — both well-known productivity apps — are seen to be struggling and have been retiring certain products. Are there lessons Mindsense can take to avoid being seen as “a feature and not a product” as these have in the past?
These have been phenomenal examples to watch. All three of us — Evernote, Dropbox, and Mindsense — are in consumer-level productivity software. As is the case in technology, things are moving quickly. But this is exponentially real in consumer-level software. Why? Software is cheap and easy to build, and consumers (vs businesses) incur minimal switching costs, so they adopt new stuff really quickly.
What we’re seeing with Dropbox and Evernote is a huge call to action for Mindsense. What makes us most valuable today is not a product like Mail Pilot or Throttle. It’s a human-centered design-thinking mindset that focuses us on discovering unsolved problems and coming up with stellar, innovative solutions for these problems. With Mail Pilot, we saw people having a hard time getting their inbox clean. With Throttle, we saw people having a hard time keeping stuff out of their inboxes that didn’t belong there in the first place.
The call to action for us is this: don’t fall in love with the product, fall in love with the process. We need to keep innovating, keep solving problems, keep applying our process to continually turn out great new products that improve people’s lives by solving tough problems.
For a really dramatic example, look at 3M: They started as a mining company in 1902, but as that proved to be of little value, they looked at solving new problems. Today, they’re one of the world’s strongest companies, they have 55,000 different products, and most amazingly, more than a third of their revenue comes from products that were created in the last five years [source]. That’s innovation. That’s love of a process over a product.
At Evernote and Dropbox, you instead see folks trying to morph the wording they use to describe a solution to a problem that existed a decade ago to make it sound like it’s still timely and relevant.
But those great products were born out of a process, and I think that process needs to be dusted off and revisited. It’s clear they have the “secret sauce” in there somewhere, but they need to be willing to let go of everything that’s gotten them to where they are today — one single result of their process — and embrace new results of the process. New ideas and new solutions to new problems that plague their core customers in 2016.
At Mindsense, we need to do the same. That’s why, even though Mail Pilot got us to where we are today, we’re focusing so hard on Throttle. And when that problem is solved, we’ll focus hard on scaling up something else.
We live and die on innovation. Innovation can kill our companies, and innovation can propel our companies forward. But it’s up to us to figure out how to wield it.
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