This post was inspired by case studies in The Wide Lens: What Successful Innovators See That Others Miss by Ron Adner (Amazon link).
Sony’s eReader launch in 2006 encountered several unplanned-for road blocks: publishers didn’t have an infrastructure in place to support ebook commerce, there were unprecedented legal concerns around digital rights management (DRM), and not all publishers felt comfortable taking on the inherent risk of entering a new and untested market. The totality of these issues represented an insurmountable inertia that eventually lead to Sony pulling out of the eBook/eReader market entirely.
About 1 year later, Amazon introduced its Kindle device which is still flourishing to this day. Some things that Amazon did to ensure a more prosperous trajectory included: leveraging its platform to provide the infrastructure publishers needed, reducing legal concerns around DRM by making the Kindle proprietary, and making initial entry into the digital publishing market more palatable by taking a loss on every eBook sale (a tried and true growth strategy for multiple Amazon services). Entirely unlike the tale of Sony’s eReader, Amazon was able to clear the way for market success when they committed the all-hands-on-deck effort to address sources of inertia before introducing the Kindle.
Identifying solvable problems and designing solutions are undoubtedly essential activities for making things better. But there’s another element essential for delivering a market-ready solution that is sometimes left by the wayside: dynamism — the habitual mode of reducing or eliminating tension across the board.
Dynamism happens when there is recognition that the widget or platform is only half the innovation — the other half involves recognizing that there is a user of the solution who requires certain conditions before they’re ready to adopt and deploying a concerted effort to make these conditions possible.
Anticipating inertia, and generously and proactively solving for it is what made the difference between Sony’s ill-fated foray and Amazon’s subsequent rise to eBook/eReader market dominance.