Focus, Indecision, and Mediocrity

Horace Dediu’s lede from the piece titled “Why Focusing on a Few Products is Hard” :

“Focus is about saying no.” This quote is perhaps apocryphal but it’s accredited to Steve Jobs. It’s not a novel idea.

Dediu continues to discuss the Portfolio theory and how in concept, spreading across horizontals can be strategically beneficial but in reality (unlike for street vendors in New York City selling hot dogs and umbrellas) it is hurtful to technology companies.

Technology startups have to make many critical choices early in their development, but none is more important than the scope and vertical they choose to restrain their products and services. Where this scope falls depends on many factors including audience, distribution medium, cost of operation and price for product. Feature creep is one reoccurring example of the importance of defining scope and staying within it, but many aspects of business that are far away from feature sets and product roadmaps still need to be defined and managed within restraints.

Focus creates clarity, and clarity eases decision.

During cycles of idea, code, measure, and learn, indecision can stretch out the process, create tension in the team, and ultimately end up causing more waste than if you were to just make the wrong decision right away. The data and learning that could have been collected after your right or wrong decision is valuable. The time you waste and stress incurred when paralyzed by indecision will hurt your company and product.

Many startups are doomed for failure because of non-viable ideas and even worse implementations. Others have products that stagnate on mediocrity not because of product ideation but a team that is debilitated by indecision. Focusing your product — being able to clearly say “that’s not what we do” when pitched a feature — will enable you a clearer vision and path, making decisions easier, liberating your team to build the product you know best.