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Rant: Innovation -vs- What Works

I tweeted something today that had been on my mind for a few weeks:

The reasoning behind the tweet was a culmination of things lately that have really had me scratching my head. The first being Facebook’s latest upgrade. If you haven’t noticed the level of interaction on Facebook drop since this upgrade you should probably get your eyes checked. Honestly, no one knows what to do, where to go, etc., it’s even confusing to me at times and this is what I do for a living.  Granted, there probably hasn’t ever been a Facebook upgrade that was ever accepted with open arms by the community, people will complain about anything, especially Facebook users (who pay nothing by the way). In the past the tweaks and improvements put in place have always been intuitive enough for people to catch onto what’s going on after they get their bearings and in a week or two it’s a mute issue (until the next update of course). Not this last revision

I can’t single out Facebook, one of my favorite apps of all-time, Gowalla, recently launched the biggest new release yet, and get this, it’s a complete departure from where they started. For myself, and about 2 dozen people I have spoken with lately, all of the reasons we fell in love w/ Gowalla are now gone. It’s sort of like dating a really pretty girl in high school and all of a sudden she shaves her head and grows a beard. One of the things I really liked about Gowalla was the custom location stamps, for instance, when I checked in at Wimpy’s Burgers and Fries on Gowalla, I could post to Facebook where I was at and let all of my friends know in a bold way by displaying Wimpy’s custom icon on my Facebook wall. That is now gone, in fact, the entire simple check-in process appears to have been replaced by “stories”, something that I discussed among friends this past weekend (see tweets).

I’m not saying that Gowalla shouldn’t ever change, that’s crazy! My problem is that they changed too much, all at once. When I first heard about the exciting changes coming at Gowalla I was pretty excited about the idea of stories, that was of course before I figured out that the simple check-in was gone!!  Here’s a post I did on the announcement of the new version…

I think sometimes we get way too anxious in this day and age to be the first to deliver some new innovation or improvement that no one else has ever seen before that we lose sight in our purpose. Let’s take for instance what we saw today w/ Netflix. They had this idea for something new, Qwikster, but announced today that they were just going to leave things alone for the time being…

  • What kind of cojones did it take for Netflix to recall something they had invested hundreds, if not thousands, of hours into because it wasn’t a good fit for their consumers?
  • Remember “New Coke”? Remember when they brought back “Coca-Cola Classic” because “New Coke” sucked?

I applaud Netflix for their maturity, and wish nothing but the best to Facebook and Gowalla, just wanted to share my two cents. What are your thoughts?

 

 

About Cotton Rohrscheib

Cotton Rohrscheib is the CEO of Rohrscheib Capital Partners. Over the past 20 years he has been associated with numerous projects in the IT, Healthcare, and Agriculture industries. Born a serial entrepreneur, Cotton has personally been involved in several startups, product launches, and brand acquisitions during his career and has consulted on hundreds of projects for clients around the world. Today he still services the marketing and consulting needs for clients while trying to maintain a healthy balance between work and being a good husband and father to his wife, Donna, and their son, Spencer.

Comments

  1. Phillip M Price says:

    I think you should read this and re-calibrate. http://www.worldpolicy.org/journal/fall2011/innovation-starvation

  2. Thanks for reading, and I appreciate your comments. I may not have done a very good job getting my point across on this one. What I was trying to say was that when Coca-Cola introduced “New Coke” they basically pushed something onto a legion of loyal consumers who weren’t looking for a new coke. The same applies to Gowalla, I think most of the people I have spoken to that were Gowalla loyalists have all agreed that they were content w/ the basic check-in functionality of the app the way it was, even over it’s big-named competitor, Foursquare. With the latest Gowalla update, the core functionality that users downloaded and fell in love with was replaced w/ something entirely different.  Hope that helps clarify where i was going w/ my post..

    I’m definitely not against innovation in general, I think it has to be delivered gradually to consumers though otherwise it can be too much. Also, beta-testing can help prevent catastrophes a lot of times. I think had Facebook and Gowalla both put their upgrades onto Beta and solicited feedback from a large segment of their user base things would have been a lot smoother for both companies. Facebook will survive, and I hope Gowalla can right the ship soon because I sincerely love their app as well…

  3. Phillip M Price says:

    What you are describing are not “innovations” they are feature changes. Getting a product to market and then getting to scale is very difficult and many changes have to made along the way. Just dont confuse a pivot with innovation, they are very, very different.

  4. In the case of Gowalla, it’s not really a feature change as much as it is a departure. I don’t see very many similarities between “stories” and what used to be a “check-in”.

    I get what you are saying though, pivots are one thing (and I guess you could classify what Facebook did as a pivot), but in the case of Gowalla, it’s more of a departure in my opinion. If I wanted to check in to Starbucks right now on Gowalla and share that I am at Starbucks w/ my friends, I have to leave a tip or post a photo (as best I can tell, I might be wrong, it’s confusing). Prior to the new release, I could open the app, browse the nearby locations, select Starbucks, and push my location out to Facebook and Twitter…

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