Take the Chindo¨gu Out of Your Products

I love to use the concept of limits to help to better understand or define an idea. Understanding what is really bad product design, for example, can help determine what to focus on as a Product Manager. In my estimation, Chindogu is the antithesis of good product design.

Wikipedia explains:

Chindogu is the Japanese art of inventing ingenious everyday gadgets that, on the face of it, seem like an ideal solution to a particular problem. However, Chindogu has a distinctive feature: anyone actually attempting to use one of these inventions, would find that it causes so many new problems, or such significant social embarrassment, that effectively it has no utility whatsoever. Thus, Chindo¨gu are sometimes described as ‘unuseless’ – that is, they cannot be regarded as ‘useless’ in an absolute sense, since they do actually solve a problem; however, in practical terms, they cannot positively be called ‘useful’.

(Also see – The Chindogu Champion)

No matter how well designed, every product has a degree of Chindo¨gu – a new problem that was introduced as a result of solving another (hopefully bigger) problem. How much value does your product add by solving your customer’s problem? How much value does it take away by introducing new problems? The overall user experience – the nett utility – is what really counts. If it’s all too much work or too complicated then repeat business is not likely, no matter how many more features you have over the competition.

Spend a few days in your customer’s shoes. What problems do they experience? What do they do to overcome the shortcomings of your (and your competitors’) products? If you solved these instead of adding the next round of features would it be a better return on your product development investment?

Do all customers experience the same problems with your product? If not, it could be a pointer to a market segment for you to exploit.

By understanding and solving the problems your customer has with your products you will add value that your competition may not readily detect and thereby obtain a sustainable market advantage.

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