Today Consumers Get It All.The Question Is, Will They Get It From You?
Back in the days before email chains, when clever quips were Xeroxed and faxed between offices so many times, they often became illegible, many people displayed an 8-1/2 x 11 page on their wall that advised visiting colleagues…
Fast, Good, Cheap. Pick 2.
The idea was simply that it is impossible to deliver anything of high quality if you don't have the time or budget to do the job properly. You may be able to skimp on one or the other, but you always have to compromise something - fast, good or cheap.
Who knew at the time that “Fast, Good, Cheap” is actually a classic example of an engineering concept known as The Project Triangle, designed to show three “corners” of a project to demonstrate opposition.
If only this relatively manageable condition still existed, business success would be far less challenging. Unfortunately today, in the vast majority of businesses, there is a fourth corner that outranks the other three – the consumer.
In this era of instant access to information, the ability to comparison “shop” for virtually anything offered in commerce, and the rather sudden and rapid expansion of the competitive marketplace (you no longer only compete with the guy across the street – you compete with the woman across the globe), consumers call all the shots. And if you don’t say, “How high?” when they say, “Jump!” they will most certainly find someone else who will.
They want it fast.
Apple iPhone users begin clamoring for the next release of hardware of firmware before the most recent version has had a chance to cool off from coming out of the oven. Zappos.com customers expect to receive their shoes overnight. And that new, state-of-the-art laptop I bought last month? It’s too damn slow!
They want it good.
If the plight of the American auto industry tells us nothing else, it tells us that. An entire industry that once dominated the industrialized world was on the verge of extinction – and would’ve ended up there, too, if not for charitable government intervention. There is simply no more room in the marketplace for shoddy anything – because someone else will always provide better, if you can’t. And the consumer will have no qualms about kicking you while you're down.
They want it cheap.
Well, let’s at least say “good value.” A friend of mine who has owned a design firm in New York for over twenty-five years (no small feat) recently told me that he was getting the same fees for services in the 80s that he is today. TWENTY YEARS AGO! Plus today clients expect the work faster and there is significantly less loyalty. Let them down, they’re gone. This is not unique to his business. It’s every business.
The cause of all this, of course - and the solution – is the rampant pace at which business innovation takes place today. Smart organizations (again, think Apple, Google, Zappos, Amazon, and all the others consistently ranked as "most innovative") are able to rethink, reinvent, retool, restructure and reposition faster than you can say “cloud computing.” The new “business as usual” is that there is no more business as usual.
So what’s a poor company to do? Simple – follow the example of the big boys. Innovate...constantly. Not whenever a problem comes up. Whenever the sun comes up. Today you need a great idea every year, every quarter, every month, even every day.
Innovative thinking fuels innovation. So start thinking! Ideas are the key, then acting on those ideas and seeing them through to completion.
The days of “pick two” are gone forever. It’s time to understand that you work for your customer. Period. Don’t meet their expectations, anticipate and exceed them. Don’t wait for ideas to come to you, go after them every day. Don't expect customer loyalty, demonstrate loyalty to your customer.
So what are you going to work on first? Fast, good or cheap?