McAfee’s Own 9x Problem

McAfeeAs I sat this week at the Gartner conference, I had the opportunity to hear Andrew McAfee speak about Enterprise 2.0. One of the things I enjoyed hearing live was the 9x problem. He has written about it before, but the phenomenon is that we tend to overestimate the value of current solutions by 3x and underestimate proposed replacements by 3x. His great example was Tivo not being used by everyone in the world even though it clearly rocks. Thus validating the anecdotal presumption in the consumer space that new products must be 10x the old in value to be adopted.

I used to work with the CEO of Mindscape and he would often quote the ephemeral 10x rule when I would bring up crazy ideas. The problem today is that I have no idea how to measure this axiom. If I sit down with my team and we design a blog feature for our social network, is that 10x better than someone sending an email, or a newsletter? I doubt asking users (before they are users) will yield any reliable data. I am at a loss for how to measure this value before actually deploying a solution. Ideas welcome.

As I watched Dr. McAfee speak it also became apparent that he has his own 9x problem. His slides all look like they came from the standard power point template (not that there is anything wrong with that). To his credit, he added his name in the footer of each slide, but no other substantive changes. I assume he sat down one day and said, “I can spend a bunch of time on a new template, but the message is the same, so why bother”. Thus another “good enough” solution of today lives on in the face of prettier, if not better, solutions.

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17 comments

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  2. Paul, The existence of the 10x rule aside, I’m going to disagree with Dr. McAfee. (Is his 9x PPT online?) Rather than explaining the 9x difference as a function of user estimation error, I’m inclined to chalk it up to hidden costs and barriers. Re-framed as such, this is a perfect candidate for Porter’s Five Forces. Just do the analysis as if the user is deciding whether to enter the market. Doing the analysis for Tivo and tell me if you still think it is a good fit for Early Adopters, let alone the rest.

  3. Paul, The existence of the 10x rule aside, I’m going to disagree with Dr. McAfee. (Is his 9x PPT online?) Rather than explaining the 9x difference as a function of user estimation error, I’m inclined to chalk it up to hidden costs and barriers. Re-framed as such, this is a perfect candidate for Porter’s Five Forces. Just do the analysis as if the user is deciding whether to enter the market. Doing the analysis for Tivo and tell me if you still think it is a good fit for Early Adopters, let alone the rest.

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