“You cannot be anything you want to be — but you can be a lot more of who you already are.” — Tom Rath, Strength Finder 2.0.
A while back, I was sipping a macchiato with my friend Julio at a local coffee shop when we started having one of our typical thought-provoking conversations. I told him I really liked the quote (above) from Strength Finder, and that I found it eye opening and rather refreshing.
We tend to focus on improving our areas of weakness. Though we often forget that we might be naturally limited in certain areas and, thus, might not improve as much as we would like to, regardless of how much work we put in. And that’s ok … at least it should be. Strength Finder focuses on finding talents that make individuals unique, then nurturing those talents.
“Well, this can also apply to software.” Said Julio. Then he followed up by explaining how software companies often focus their efforts on their software’s weaknesses while forgetting the features or architecture that sets their software apart. After hearing this mapping to software, I immediately started thinking of companies that do this well. Here is the list I could come up with.
Even though they’re now a major player in many areas, Google will always be a “search” company first. What they’ve done to improve searching is quite remarkable. Google, however, was never about fancy UI design, even though they have very capable engineers. Instead, they realized their users’ goal was to get to the results/content as fast as machinably possible without anything getting in the way. That alone was/is one of the main differentiators between Google and it’s early/current competitors. Here are some interesting features Google implemented to improve its search engine.
- Instant Search: Tying users’ search query to a dynamic result set.
- Mobile-friendliness: Indicating whether a site is mobile-friendly or not when users are searching on Google using their mobile device.
As opposed to Google, Apple has been a software company that excels at aesthetics and design. Captivating, simple designs and interactions are evident in every Apple product. Apple has never been about early innovation or first-to-market. They always considered existing products and made them dead-simple to use. That’s their true innovation and they have stayed true to their software strength and culture.
- iPod: It wasn’t the first music/mp3 player, but it changed the music industry.
- iPhone: It wasn’t the first smartphone, but it revolutionized the market.
- iPad: It wasn’t the first tablet, but it was the one that created a new market.
What makes facebook different from other social networking apps is their dedication to the social graph and connecting people in many ways.
- Graph search: A natural way of searching. “Restaurants in London my friends have been to.”
- Timeline: A new way of looking at your social history on Facebook.
Microsoft didn’t do as good a job as the other companies until recently. They led the pack in Operating Systems (Windows) and utility tools (Office). For a while, things seemed to have gotten a little stale at Microsoft until their recent cloud-based solutions (Office 365). But the point remains. They stayed true to their software’s strength.
As we all get a little introspective around the new year, perhaps it’s time to think about the features we introduce in our products. Perhaps we should constantly put them under the microscope. We should stay true to what makes our software strong, by resisting any temptations to add features that take us away from the “ONE” path that our software does better than anyone else’s.
So what are your software’s strengths?