Pioneers and Settlers

Picture of Adam Bahret
Adam Bahret

The Pioneers rarely reap the rewards of new discoveries.  It’s usually the settlers that really profit from the new expansion.  Many companies, especially small ones striving to get into a market, bet on a big technology breakthrough to get their foot in the door.  As consumers we do eventually become aware of “the others” once the market for that technology is in motion.   “The others” were quietly watching and diligently developing the improved version based on the experiences of the pioneer’s first take.

If we are going to discuss design refinement through iterations then we are talking about product evolution.  This is where the real success and market share is claimed.  It’s when a brand becomes associated with the next small step in a technology or product line.  How many product do we have that we love that are very similar to much older revisions but are just refinements?

Toyota did not invent any of the safety technology improvements you see here.  But they do showcase it for their brand to gain customer market share and loyalty.  I don’t even know who invented the airbag, crumple zone, or compressible steering column off the top of my head.  I’m sure they worked very hard and spent a lot  of money.  Tucker automotive pioneered a lot of auto safety features…and then promptly went out of business.

So what happens if we slow down our aggressive R&D programs aimed to create the next big technology jump, and simply improve the quality of what exists?  I believe this is a surefire way to gain market share.  You may not be the company in the news but you will be the company steadily gaining market share with a lower cost and more reliable product.

This mindset is a fundamental shift in allocation of product resource and schedule from what we commonly see.  To implement this a program would invest heavily in reliability test and analysis instead of invention.  I advise the following first steps in a program plan.

  • Be the first in line to purchase the latest and greatest item created by your competitor.
  • Take it home, take it apart
  • Look closely at all the customer feedback on it and industry reviews
  • Then create a reliability and feature improvement program based on improving those top factors.
  • Release that to the market ahead of the pioneers 2.0 because you were already started with development on the next generation while they were burdened with ramping up 1.0 production and franticly addressing customer issues

They can’t compete.  By waiting you ended up way ahead.



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