“The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing.”
A very successful company today generally does two things: they use an effective idea to solve a current problem for their customers and attempt to do so in a visually pleasant way.
Dropbox is an invaluable tool, both personally and professionally. It serves as our primary mechanism for sharing and organizing large files with clients and partners. The biggest timesaver however is its desktop integration for both PC and Mac, making it possible to manage files on Dropbox as effortlessly as you would any other local files. But therein lies a problem; Dropbox offers me an extraordinary amount of cloud storage but in order for me to manage it locally, I need to have a copy of every file saved locally.
Two weeks ago, Dropbox attempted to solve this problem with the introduction of Project Infinite and I was immediately intrigued. My files could now all reside solely in the cloud if I chose, but I would have full access to them through Windows Explorer and OSX Finder. Immensely pleasing in today’s world where computers have begun the migration to the faster and more stable SSDs at the expense of storage space due to the high price. While this was great news, it was hardly the revolutionary moment many tech media outlets reported it to be.
Dropbox wasn’t a new idea; far from it. How does one even define something as an original idea when many independent thoughts converge to form the basis of an idea? In 2005, one of my favorite applications was Xdrive. No, not that BMW drive system that crowded my search results when researching this article. Xdrive was an online cloud storage service that offered 5 GB of free storage. Better yet, it installed a local “X: drive” on my PC that I could easily drop files onto and they would automatically upload to the cloud without a need to keep the file locally. All that and I could easily manage the folder structure and see all the files that I had stored online. Sound familiar? While Xdrive had some success, and the company still exists under the AOL banner, it never quite caught on. It debuted when many users were still using DSL. Most computers had writeable physical drives with blank DVDs costing pennies.
History is filled with examples of products being brought to market too soon. My beloved brand Microsoft is famous for them. They introduced the Tablet PC in 2001 before debuting the oversized and overpriced Surface Table in 2007; inspiring ideas that seemed poised to revolutionize the company. It never happened. Apple introduced the iPad in 2010 and the rest is history.
It wasn’t Apple’s “innovation”. They’re far too often given credit for that. It was their execution. They solved a problem that the market was clamoring for and promoted it with effective marketing. They delivered the precise feature set to get consumers excited, but left themselves room to add to it gradually in order to maintain and build product sales annually.
As a full-service agency, we face these challenges every day with our clients. The pressure for every brand to be innovative is overblown, when arguably companies succeed when they’ve correctly defined and executed a strategy; and timing is an integral part of that. So many ideas seem promising, both in our professional and personal lives. They may excite us with their seemingly limitless possibilities. We may overthink the future and the opportunities our idea may bring. However, if we do this without executing our defined strategy at the right time, we’re doomed to be the next Xdrive, Surface Table, WebTV…inspiring ideas folded into others with little lasting impression.