The 9x effect in product development

This widely linked post from Benedict Evens definitely deserves all the attention it’s been getting. In Glass, Home and solipsism Benedict talks about the fallacy of thinking that customers care as much about your product as you do1:

You can think of people as users or customers — but they’re not yours. They don’t belong to you, and they may barely even care that you exist.

A little bit earlier he discusses Google Glass and says this:

If everyone you know owns a Tesla and is deeply engrossed in new technology, then the idea that there might be social problems with Glass doesn’t come up — everyone’s too busy saying ‘AWESOME!’

This reminded me of what John T. Gourville calls “The 9x Effect” in Eager Sellers and Stony Buyers: Understanding the Psychology of New-Product Adoption (you have to register for a free HBR account to view the article):

There’s a fundamental problem for companies that want consumers to embrace innovations: While developers are already sold on their products and see them as essential, consumers are reluctant to part with what they have. This conflict results in a mismatch of nine to one between what innovators believe consumers want and what consumers truly desire.

This image from the article explains the concept well:

The 9x effect

This might explain why products like Color, Facebook Home, and Google Glass appear destined not to do very well in the general market.

  1. I’ve written about the same thing before in What users really care about