What Really Happens if You Build a Better Mousetrap? - Bruce Turkel

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “If you build a better mousetrap the world will build a path to your door.”

Trouble is, that’s not true.

If you build a better mousetrap, the world WON’T beat a path to your door. You will just wind up with a bunch of dead mice.

The history of business and technology is riddled with better products that lost leader status and market share to lesser competitors: Sony Betamax, New Coke, Polaroid Instant Home Movies, Apple Lisa (and almost Apple’s Macintosh), and many more. They are all examples of the times when a fickle consuming public chose an inferior product they felt better met their needs.

According to Inc. Magazine, “Entrepreneurs often think only the best product will let them succeed. But sometimes ‘best’ isn’t what your customers really want… to understand what will work, you need to understand explicitly what motivates your customers. …You don’t have to pour money into topping every competitor. You just have to provide people what is actually most important to them in such a way that you can sustain a business.”

Need a more timely example? Take a look at politics.

Why is it that our best and brightest, the people with true knowledge, experience, and credentials often get passed over for less capable demagogues who have the charismatic ability to speak directly to their constituents?

Why is it that expert advice is often ignored at great expense while storytelling and fables are often followed?

Need an example?

How is it that Kentucky senator Rand Paul was actually able to tell Federal Health Officials (including Dr. Anthony Fauci) that “we shouldn’t presume that a group of experts somehow knows what’s best” and he wasn’t laughed off the dais? How was Senator Paul able to suggest that when it comes to dealing with the Coronavirus crisis Americans “just need more optimism” despite the fact there are currently more than three million confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. that have resulted in more than 131,000 deaths already?

It’s simple. Consumers don’t buy what they need. They buy what they want.

Paul’s supporters NEED effective health policy, increased investment in disease abatement and eradication, and concerned compassionate leadership that respects both science and human life.

But Paul’s supporters WANT a senator who confirms their own personal opinions of the way the things work and are willing to eschew facts and risk their lives in order to protect their own fragile world view.

People don’t buy the best products. And they don’t vote for the politicians who do a better job. Instead they make their decisions based on the products and politicians who make them feel better about themselves.

Just like the logo on the front grill of a car tells us what personal persona the driver wants to portray, the political sticker on the back bumper does the same thing. Simply put, the products we buy, and the politicians we vote for, help us define who we are to the world and to ourselves.

Whether or not the product – or the politician – is actually the most qualified for the job is vastly less important to our purchase decision than how we feel about it.

And ourselves.

4.Comments

  1. Cheryl Goodman
    July 8, 2020

    Great article Bruce, well said and spot on. Feelings are fickle and yet we continue to make crucial decisions based on how we “feel”. Thanks for sharing and keep making us think with our brains and not our feelings.

    Reply
  2. July 8, 2020

    This was incredibly insightful, Bruce. I don’t know if it makes me feel better about who we are as Americans (which I have been despairing about), but it does speak to the human nature in all of us.

    Wise words, as always. Thanks.

    Reply
  3. July 8, 2020

    Well said — shared with my children so that they will make better decisions when selecting their politicians that will control their future — very timely… as usual!

    Reply
  4. July 8, 2020

    “You will just wind up with a bunch of dead mice.” BOOM. Yes, you turned your laser insightful focus on a problematic but clear reality. We choose poorly. We choose more based on feelings than evidence. So, my takeaway is that when I seek to create a BETTER mousetrap I will look for a broader definition of better. It will be a mousetrap that ethically and safely traps the mouse, and teleports him or her to an isolated island paradise filled with cheese dispensers. It will cost more…but it will achieve the initial goal (mouse removal) but combine a better FEELING (non-lethal outcome) with the product. Now, I just need to figure out the teleportation aspect.

    Reply

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