Sunday June 14, 2020 |Notes

Unintended uses

It's not possible to know all the ways a product may be used before it's released. There are cases where products have found immense success by being something other than the intended use and many where products are enhanced by unforeseen uses. \

There are countless examples of customers using products in creative ways that may never have been imagined. The slinky toy and memory foam are two physical products that come mind. And there are countless other smaller examples; i.e. toothpaste as a cleaner, paperclips as sim card tools, any ikea-hack, etc.

The same holds true for digital products, with twitter and text messaging being two prime examples. The effects of unintended uses in digital products is far greater than in physical products. Digital products can spread fasters, be exploited in any number of ways, and are inherently difficult to control prior to wide usage. In most cases, the worst parts of digital product are only found after immense success.

This idea has come up recently in media on other subjects as well. Alex Danco wrote about a debacle involving the Hertz bankruptcy, the day traders buying the stock for short-term gain, and how it may save Hertz from folding. This wasn't the intended use of the stock market and nobody could have predicted the circumstances that gave way to this. And Arielle Duhaime-Ross's latest episode of The Reset podcast delved into how platforms like Minecraft are now being used for live concerts.

Unintended uses aren't uncommon. We often fail to see the full potential until there is real usage. Look for the ways customers use products in new ways and expand upon them.

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