June 1, 2006

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects: The Change Function

By: Jack @ 4:05 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

The Change Function: Why Some Technologies Take Off and Others Crash and Burn
By Pip Coburn, Portfolio, 213 pages, $24.95 Hardcover. June 2006 ISBN 1591841321
I like this book. I can't concisely explain why but I'll try. Perhaps it's because the author Pip Coburn believes satellite radio will be a sensation. (I love my XM radio--tunes baby!) Or maybe it's because Coburn explains the unknown reasoning behind what you already know. Now I am getting ahead of myself.
This book is about technology--why it succeeds or flops.
We've all heard it before: 'Build it and they will come.' Well, the last six years have proven that at least in the technology industry, that maxim is shockingly--and expensively--untrue. But there's an alternative approach, one that is user oriented and not so supplier-centric.

This book,
...aims to identify the root of crisis by getting in users' heads as to what they really want--as opposed to running insightless focus groups--and it looks for ways of reducing the total perceived pain of adopting a new way of doing things. In other words, we want to understand the crisis at the adopter level, or specifically how a new offering solves a problem such that the pain of moving to a new technology is lower than the pain of staying in the status quo.
The Change Function
f (Perceived crisis vs. total perceived pain of adoption)

The first quarter of the book explains this function with a history lesson. Then Coburn spends half the book analyzing famous "crashes and burns" like Tablet PCs, Webvan and Iridium. Each analysis commences by rating the "crisis" and the total perceived pain of adoption. It continues with background information and lessons learned.
One of the last chapters explains how to make the book a relevant tool. As Coburn remarks,
Here's where I'm supposed to say, 'Fear I present the eight easy steps for employing the pearls and perils of The Change Function into your daily life and all will be well.' Sorry. Eight-easy-steps books are never easy and are usually abandoned pretty quickly. The purpose of this book is to uncover greater truths, understanding, and better assessment of organizations, decisions, products, managements, and outcomes...

Pretty heady stuff but Coburn pulls it off. The last chapter alone is worth the price of admission.
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