Thursday, May 16, 2013

Getting a product to market -- what they don't cover in business school

Anyone who has had to sit through lectures on strategy knows of Porter's Five Forces:

Anyone who has specialized in understanding how new technologies get to market know of Geoffrey Moore's Crossing The Chasm:

Furthermore, the famous line from chapter two of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations states
"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages."
But what happens when the self interest of parties acts as a barrier to technological advancement that can bring a superior product to market? What happens when the self interest of parties is inimical to the safety of the consumer who purchases the said parties' products?

The website Fairwarning (1) exposes such behaviour and today highlighted the complicity of the power tool industry's attempt to stop a company called SawStop from successfully marketing the only saws with skin-sensing technology, in this piece: "After More Than a Decade and Thousands of Disfiguring Injuries, Power Tool Industry Still Resisting Safety Fix"

As Myron Levin and Lilly Fowler write

Read the rest of the story at with the takeaway that (i) self interest isn't necessarily benign in terms of outcomes; it can be dangerous; (ii) invention and innovation often occurs outside the citadel of big business and getting something to market can involve navigating the complex world of powerful lobbies and legal obfuscation ("barriers to entry").

In closing, recall that Ralph Waldo Emerson stated that "If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods" -- which is often misquoted as the building a better moustrap story -- but in reality market forces in the 21st century are not so simple.

(1) A shorter version is of the story is available at Mother Jones


  1. Unfortunately, Porter's Five Forces diagram can be used to find clever ways for existing firms to block competition. In the US, this usually means some form of litigation or threat of litigation.

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