Successful products need to stand out … just not too much

Top of the line! Novel new features! Can’t live without convenience! When it comes to new products, there seems to be no limit to the different varieties and options, even within the same class of items (if you have ever had to purchase a new appliance, you know what I’m talking about).

But what makes certain products stand out from others, and ultimately realize more commercial success for their developers?

Joining me to share their research in this area is Yonghoon Lee with The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Tian Chan with Emory University. Their study, “Anchored Differentiation: The Role of Temporal Distance in the Comparison and Evaluation of New Product Designs,” selected for publication in the INFORMS journal Organization Science, looks at how consumers evaluate new product designs and how this can benefit product designers.

Scholars and practitioners, what they have concluded is that it’s important to strike a balance between standing out and maintaining some kind of similarity to existing design. But how? How do you actually do it? There is a tension there.

Interviewed this episode:

Yonghoon Lee, Tian Chan

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Emory University

Yonghoon Lee is an assistant professor in the Department of Management at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).

He studies networks, social categories, and inequalities therein. More specifically, he is interested in how people from disadvantaged social categories, such as novices and gender/racial minorities, manage their networks and work identities to overcome the predicaments they face in their “entrepreneurial” careers—like the careers of creative workers, service professionals, corporate directors, and, of course, those in academia. In his research, he draws on both archival field data and controlled experiments.

He recieved his Ph.D. in Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD. Before that, he studied for BE & BBA, and MS at Korea University.

Tian Chan is an assistant professor of Information Systems and Operations Management at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. He is curious about how novel innovations come about. The areas he is broadly interested in are product design, service design, teams, networks, intellectual property.

Recently he has worked on how user-innovators generate novel product designs; how teams manage interdependencies; and how firms configure/reconfigure their business methods. He also teaches the undergraduate process and systems management course (introductory operations/systems management).