& Christy


We’ve got a lot of our favorite stories in Getting It Right The First Time but some didn’t make it into the final manuscript.  Below are a couple of our stories that fell off the truck.

On Being Average

Years ago we went to visit Cisco on the event of a new Internet product introduction in a fast growing category. We listened to the marketing spiel, talked about the improvements and features, and even unscrewed the case and poked inside. While driving back to our office we pondered how we could write this up for our research clients.  The trouble was that the product wasn’t very interesting and didn’t have many of the advanced features that their competitors had.  We searched for a catchy way to capture what they had done and failed. Our conclusion was that it was a perfectly competent but completely unexciting product offering.  After a few minutes we realized that, for Cisco’s customers, being average was an asset, not a liability.  Technology companies can get all wound up in the advanced features and functions and lose sight of the fact that for most customers the last greatest feature is irrelevant compared to the fact that you can buy it from your established well endowed supplier rather than a tentative start-up.  The network device business was evolving rapidly giving vendors ample rope to hang themselves with advanced technology where the hanging came in the additional engineering needed to build the feature, the product instability that comes with change, and the incremental cost of selling and supporting bleeding edge applications. For a start-up that may all be necessarily as table stakes for entering the game. In contrast Cisco had just the product it needed to happily suck up 30%+ of the market with the added bonus of lower development, selling and support costs. They could wait another year before the advanced features in this category would interest their mainstream customers.  We concluded that having only adequate products was the basis for a pretty exceptional business strategy, not an example of how the lumbering giant could succeed despite their inadequacies (the way the startups saw it of course).  Part of the leading market share Cisco got was the result of their market dominance (the benefit of market leadership) but part was a smart result of Cisco’s choosing to focus on the high value part of the business. Cisco understood what their customers really wanted and focused on delivering it effectively.

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The Making Of Getting It Right The First Time

We’re not kidding when we say that Getting It Right The First Time has been four years in the making.  When we started writing it back in 2000, it was at the height of the Internet bubble.  One New York publisher gave us a copy of a draft book titled Rational Exuberance which was basically argued that the economic prosperity of the late 90’s was going to continue indefinitely because the American economy reached a new plateau.  The publisher said, “Can you produce something that’s along these lines?”  Thank goodness we declined that. 

When books were hot it was like the dot com markets: it didn’t make a lot of difference what you wrote about if it fit the model. We wasted effort with a good book agent who kept getting is fit into a hot style – we could do it but the important messages got badly distorted along the way.

The economy crumbled faster than we could keep up with drafts of the manuscript and then when it hit bottom, there wasn’t a publisher out there that was willing to take a try at anything that came even close to talking about high-tech.  From the standpoint of east coast book publishers, Silicon Valley had finally fallen into the Pacific.

We went through a series of titles along the way starting out with things like Getting Ahead of the Curve to Demand Anticipation.  At one point, Peter made a joke and said we should call the book Puckology because of the Wayne Gretzky quote that opens the first chapter.  The people that we were working with at the time loved the idea and we unfortunately spent a year with that as the working title (hence, the Zamboni references).  We’ve even got about a hundred hockey pucks embossed with our names and Puckology that we got as a promotion.  If you want one, send us a note.

But the project continued and we kept searching for the right name.  Tracking down Nick Phillipson, a really gifted editor who we had met back in the “good old day,” helped put us on the right path.  We really liked the work that Nick had been done in publishing some of the most interesting business books in the market, but when we went to look him up, he had left his previous job and had, as they say, moved closer to the center of the publishing business.  It took a few weeks to find him.  Nick gently pointed out that, while Puckology was a clever title, one letter change the book would be relegated to the pornography section and that it was probably one of the worst working titles that he had ever heard.  Nick suggested that we “loose Puckology and he came up with Getting It Right The First Time.  From there, as they say, the rest was history. 

So, after years of work and going through lots of rejections, we’re finally at the point where we expected to be in 2001.  But when you consider all that’s happened in the past five years, being at this point is a lot better than a sharp stick in the eye.

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