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How Does AI Avoid the Shiny Watch Syndrome?

Updated: Jun 6, 2018

by Russ Loignon, VP of Market Strategy and Business Development


The shiny watch…. what is it?  Is it the hypnotist who draws from his pocket a brilliant watch that is used to bring the subject to a hypnotic state?  Is it the city street corner sales person selling his wares with an arm full of different watches?  Is it the ultra-expensive jewelry store tailored for the elite which sells the finest crafted watches?  It could be one of these or countless other examples or it could be something different. For me, it is something different yet the same.  Let me explain….

In the world of technology, digital transformation has been affecting businesses for a long time.  It could be argued that since the inception of the base-2 numerical system (0 and 1) we have been in regular transformation mode.  Today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is beginning to impact business and individuals as the next digital transformation.


As people and businesses evaluate these technologies, they assess according to their needs, challenges and goals.  Purchases are not made strictly due to the feature or functionality but rather due to the value they provide.  That subtle statement is especially impactful when considering a transformational technology and in the case of today as they evaluate AI.  Too often, technology providers focus too much on selling the feature or functionality of the product and miss customer buying habits.


Customers are categorized in their purchasing habits – innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards.  Consumers and companies from each category make purchases for their own definition and reasons.   The least of which is due to strictly, feature/functionality.  Certainly, feature and functionality provides the data input from which a decision can be made yet the final decision is, however made, based upon the value it provides.  Value can be financial, emotional, resourceful or other….


The innovator or early adopters, for example, are eager to try new ideas or seek recognition from others. They are willing to make purchases because of these values that it provides them…whether it was flat screen TVs, the latest PC or mobile phone….their associated feature/functionality was not the driving force for the purchase.  The purchase was tied to values that aligns with their purchasing habit.  So, regardless of the category, purchases follow their associated reasons.


As providers attempt to further enable digital transformation with AI technologies, the same is true. If these providers merely highlight how terrific the long list of capabilities is…. then they are likely doomed to the technology graveyard.  Sometimes providers feel that the technology and the feature/functionality should sell itself!  Enter the shiny watch syndrome.


The shiny watch syndrome is one in which the focus is completely on one thing…the allure of the watch.  The benefits of how your life is better organized with time on your wrist are overlooked.  The shiny watch in of itself is the important centerpiece. Here is an example.


If I were to show you the most expensive watch with every imaginable feature and capability yet you were looking for a simple watch that merely tells time, you would likely not see value in my watch and likely not purchase it.  How can that be?  How can you not see value in my shiny watch?  It does everything a person could want!  The answer is, if I focused only on the features and functionality and did not try to understand what YOU were looking for in a watch….then it is likely that you would not see value.  It is critically important to understand WHY the purchaser is looking to buy.  


I believe It becomes even more imperative to avoid the natural tendency to highlight and focus on the features and functionality.  This is especially true with more advanced and transformational technologies such as AI.  The “cool” factor or the “wow” factor can easily take over the conversation.  


Raise your game – avoid the hypnotic shiny watch approach or the street corner sales person approach.  Understand why the consumer is considering technologies such as AI.  Align the benefits provided by such technologies to the customer considerations and you will win more deals!


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