Living in a Venn Diagram World

File this under first world problems – but it is a productivity problem for many.

It is the shiny penny in the app store.

The new device your buddy has.

The solution to a problem you didn’t realize you had.

In short, we are inundated with choice in our personal technology decisions, but the nature of the choice has changed. While directly competitive choices still remain – PC versus Mac, iOS versus Android – the complexity of our technology usage decisions is driven not so much by products that compete, but by products that overlap.

Personal example:  I want to keep notes synched across my devices, but have been having challenges.  To solve this, I have downloaded Evernote, and am in the process of learning how to use it.  It’s like Dropbox, but not quite.  It can store articles you want to read later, but so does Instapaper. In fact – to make matters more confusing – I could use Instapaper with Evernote.  The confusion I have isn’t that any of these are competitive, or that they’re completely different.  It’s that they overlap.

In the face of all this, here are a few things that I’m trying to keep in mind:

Start with the problem.
Technology is here to serve you – not the other way around.  Many of us (I’m guilty) download any app that looks interesting.  This leads to clutter – and clutter is the enemy.  There is a rich irony in the fact that much of our clutter is created by an overabundance of “Productivity” apps.

Style points are fleeting
Part of this is created by having the latest “it” thing – the coolest tablet, the latest app, the newest mobile device.  This is pure folly.  Just say no.

Hatfield or McCoy.  Not both.
Increasingly, the major consumer technology stacks are driven by Apple, Google, or Microsoft.  I have decided, in an effort to reduce the amount of integration aggravation in my life, to go deep within the Apple/iOS stack – much to the delight of Apple shareholders. Regardless of your choice, I think we can all reduce unproductive churn in our lives by making holistic technology decisions – not simple device decisions.  Pick one and go deep.

Final point for those of us in the software business…
The Venn Diagram point is not limited to the clash of titanic market cap corporations, but exists just as strongly in niche technology markets.  The implications for all of us are as follows:

– The decision makers who buy our stuff are far more confused about what our products actually do than we often suspect.

– In a Venn Diagram world, he who controls the buying criteria wins.  Good hockey players skate to the puck.  Great hockey players skate to where the puck is going to be.  Wayne Gretzky redefined the entire rink. Sales teams that help the buyers articulate their problem statements are defining the rink for all the other skaters.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are not constructive, excessively snarky, or off-topic.

  • Mark

    Awesome post. I can get sick of others pushing their own favorite piece of technology on me. I like the phrase that technology is here to serve us. I personally can’t stand Evernote and find no practical use for it in my life. However, when so many of my friends were adapting to it and talking about how “cool” it was, I couldn’t help but try it. Still….it just doesn’t work for me.

    • Michael E. Diamond

      Thanks Mark! So far Evernote solves the primary problem I had, which was having one “Notes” view sync across all devices with a common UI. The jury is still out if I can incorporate it into my life in the same manner as devoted Evernote users. I just created a new notebook which will keep track of books and movies I find interesting – often I’m ready for a new book, but can’t recall the great book reviews I’d read in the past month or so. Perhaps this will help. Thanks again!

  • In Search of Perfect

    Great post. Indeed, the paralysis of choice is upon us. I am in the consumer goods industry, and choice has proliferated there. Our poor consumers… 🙂

    • Michael

      True. When I’m talking to people anywhere in the US about the over-abundance of choices facing consumers, I’ll ask them to visualize the breakfast cereal aisle in their local grocery store.