Evolution, Intra and Inter Phase

The day after I posted the person that wrote the blog post, “Pioneers, Settlers and Town Planners,” Simon Wardly told me that in his opinion there was no correlation between his Evolution concept and my take on Moore’s Technology Adoption Lifecycle. So I’ve wrestled with this for a bit now.

In his tweets, he mentioned evolving practices. So I saw that as Moore’s task sublimation, a requirement for moving from early main street phase to late main street phase, from serving geeks to serving consumers, from free to paid services. A lot of things have to evolve to move from the phases on the left to the phases on the right. SAP had to eliminate their dependence on professional services to move into later, more pragmatic populations of later adopters. Marketing content similarly has to evolve to fit same. So I was still seeing this evolution as from one phase to another, aka inter phase view of the TALC as a process or network. Still, his tweets on the matter were insistent. So it came to me. I was gently reminded of all the disappointing things I see in internet companies today, the intra phase view.

My old Slideshare, “So you don’t have a Market, Great!” hinted at the fact that most innovations are not disruptive and do not always start at the beginning of the TALC and flow through the phases. Verbiage like “Early Seed Stage” make it seem like they do, since early seed stage was something specific back before the internet. Now, it just means your first money, regardless of the underlying innovation. These days there are no underlying innovations. We are replicating adopted stuff. We are starting in the late main street phase and not moving across the TALC in any real sense. A bank should be funding the stuff we are doing today.

Wardley insisted that there is no correlation between his Evolution and the TALC, because the way he sees it, his evolution can happen inside a single phase of the TALC. This has nothing to do with the value I saw in Wardley’s maps and mapping technique. I think that product managers will find it useful. But, there is that other view, the intra phase view. Thanks for getting me there. I know that most product managers are doing continuous innovation, aka evolution, within a single phase of the TALC even if other language pops up from time to time.

Wardley’s s-curve view sums up an argument that Rich Chapman had with product managers back in the 2009 timeframe about how a web service doesn’t need a product manager. Where the s-curve flattens, the value of a product manager likewise flattens. There are webservices out there today that have been around forever and have not changed in forever. They still generate income for their owners. That was Chapman’s point. He wasn’t wrong. Yahoo is another such service. Mayer’s would be better off leaving it alone, and trying to find a new technical discontinuity that could be overcome and serve as the genesis of a new category. Search is so over. I’m not so much against product managers having jobs, but more importantly, product managers finding the steep side of the curve, because those jobs are more interesting and fun. That webservice that doesn’t churn its code, does put out brand new games every year. They just won’t go back and fix things in the old games. They won’t spend programmer time where there is no particular upside.

When you build a conceptual model, do realize that every concept is subject to adoption, has a lifecycle, and has an S-curve. A concept is never static. They evolve. They evolve whether or not they are technological or otherwise. We are moving whether we want to admit it or not. Much of the constant change mantra is nonsense, because non-technological change is very slow, and technological change is very noisy in your face, but much slower behind your back. Change includes churn. Don’t churn.

Go with my recommendations in my prior post. There is much to be learned from Wardley.

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