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Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Barbie Doll Syndrome & The Paradox Of Enhancement

While organizations confront the Barbie Doll syndrome, increasingly individuals experience the paradox of enhancement. Knowledge@wharton points out,with TiVos and Treos and BlackBerrys. Wi-Fi and HDTV and plasma screens, picture phones, digital cameras, iPods and now iPod cell phones, these and more sophisticated products getting launched, keeping pace with their new features requires significant time, interest and a certain amount of smarts on the part of consumers. Complexity among consumer technology products has never been greater - a good thing if the complexity means product improvement. Complexity - along with choice - can have a big impact on how firms make and market new and improved gizmos, and on the decision processes of the people expected to buy them.
Companies need to spend significant resources explaining new product features to time-strapped potential customers, Robert Meyer, along with Shenghui Zhao of Wharton and Jin Han of Singapore Management University discuss what they call the "paradox of enhancement" in decisions by consumers to adopt new products. The paradox is this: When people are considering buying next-generation products, they find the bells and whistles attractive and decide to make the purchase, but when they acquire the products, they find the complexity of the new features overwhelming and end up using only the products' basic features. Customers tend to accentuate the positive even in the face of past experience: They are aware that, in the past, they bought products and did not use their new features; nonetheless, they plow ahead and buy a new gizmo loaded with bells and whistles. Or, it may be the case that people know that they have not made use of next-generation product features in the past, but convince themselves that they still might do so this time around. Meyer uses the phrase "the possibility of infinite deferral" to describe this mindset.Kendall Whitehouse of Wharton summarises,"In introducing tech products today, the main emphasis is on differentiation and how your product is unique. But if you fast-forward another five or 10 years, you will notice certain functions becoming more similar. You see this now with products like universal remote controls, digital cameras and Apple's Mac mini. Moving us toward this tipping point is the notion that we will start to see ease of use become the most compelling feature of all." In a way, I welcome this - in some parts of the world -(I have travelled to most parts of the world), churn, upgrade, revisions and retirements never happen - people clinging to 20 year old objects are common sights - clearly this has to change, the world need not be flat in a few dimensions, let it be so in multiple dimensions. While an ever expanding economy is good news for some, may be a lot , the issues raised are really relevant - but the point is if this can keep humanity moving along and contribute to increasing globally distributable affluence- practically speaking let's not complain about it- the greater good for wider humanity is something to be welcomed.

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
"All views expressed are my personal views are not related in any way to my employer"