Thursday, May 31, 2007

Predicting Hit Products

Seth Godin has an interesting new post on his blog entitled "Pundits are (nearly) always wrong." He examines why many so-called experts are wrong in predicting the next big hit in technology, books, music, etc. Godin argues that the experts often "measure the wrong thing." They focus on the presentation more so than the substance of the idea. To some extent, a slick and clever pitch can overcome many flaws of logic.

Moreover, Godin suggests that experts often judge a pitch based on their existing worldview. Their mental model becomes the filter through which they judge whether something will become a hit. Of course, that mental model is largely shaped by past successes and failures. However, as Godin rightly points out, "The problem is that hits change worldviews. Hits change our senses. Hits appeal to people other than the gatekeepers and then the word spreads."

Godin's argument reminds me of the famous quote by legendary screenwriter William Goldman, who once remarked that “nobody knows nothing” in Hollywood, meaning that picking hits remained a formidable challenge even for industry veterans like him.