I’m not a massive Kanye West fan, so nor will I perpetrate to be, but one I thing I have to say, as that when it comes to demonstrating the way we should all think about using digital tools in terms of product development, I’ve got to hand it to the guy.
Take his seventh studio album, Life of Pablo, which was his ‘gift’ to the world on Valentines day (14th February) last year. Like most artists, I have no doubt he spent months obsessing over all the small details, fine tuning tracks such as the ever-so-subtly-named ‘I Love Kanye’ until the moment of it’s release. But then, after he dropped the album, he didn’t sit back and wait for the critical reception, he did the unthinkable in the music world, and kept on working on it. Using the technology behind music streaming, he tweaked tracks, added new ones, and changed the order. All while (apparently), listening to customer feedback.
Now I actually don’t believe the last part of that statement is true, but his insight is profound. People don’t buy albums anymore, they subscribe to them. If you are a software developer, this is by no means a revolutionary approach to a product launch, but for an industry so reliant on the old ways of thinking, it’s a game changer.
This is the beauty of digital. It allows us to experiment, iterate and adapt. With each new technology that comes to our attention, that shift consumer beaviour, then there are opportunities to innovate. As product managers, we shouldn’t be hiding behind the curtain, ready to unveil the big idea that will revolutionise our industry, we should be testing and iterating as we go. I’ve seen businesses fail not because they refused to adapt, but because they didn’t exploit the opportunity in front of them. If you only use digital tools within the same confines as your traditional ones, then you are missing the point. It’s a tired cliché, but when you look at the first automotive car, it’s essentially just a horseless carriage. The driver and passenger are perched high, to see over the horses, but the horses are no longer there. They simply assumed that what they knew to be true wouldn’t change. And why should it? What they failed to recognize is the opportunity that the new technology allowed. The motor replaced the horses, but was a fraction of the size.
For me, this is what the digital revolution is all about. Take an industry, such as the music one, which has undergone continuous disruption through the decades. Whether it was when record players disrupted the radio, CD’s disrupting tapes, iTunes disrupting CD’s or streaming disrupting downloading. Every technological advancement has presented new product opportunities. And with Life Of Pablo, that is what Kanye has done! It seems so preposterous. Overtly opportunistic Some critics applauded the concept, other’s dismissed it as a little more than a publicity stunt. It may be self-inflated, it may be driven by ego. Maybe he did it just because he thinks he is god.
At the end of the day, I don’t care what the reasoning was. It is a fresh reminder that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Touch the sky!