There is no such thing as a killer feature

Posted on November 5, 2014.


The other night we had reason to celebrate. Something we’d been waiting on for 2 years had finally come through. We’d worked hard and it paid off. My wife suggested we go out to a steak dinner. Forgetting for a second that I don’t eat beef (hey, there’s always the “surf” half of “surf n turf”) I agreed wholeheartedly, excited about the prospect of getting out after being in the house all day. The conversation quickly turned to where we should go when something struck us — the weather was terrible. It was windy — super windy — cold, rainy and generally a gloomy, fall day. Some of the wind gusts were knocking down branches and loose window screens. We really hadn’t noticed it till then but it quickly threw cold water on our plans to go out.

“What’s in the fridge?” she asked. I quickly scanned the contents of the fridge and freezer and came up with, “Frozen chicken parm dinner.”

“Sounds great!” came her shocking response.

Admittedly bewildered I began the extraction, defrosting and warming up of the chicken parm. It didn’t look good and it tasted only slightly better than it looked. However, sharing that meal on the warm couch, covered in blankets while the wind howled outside turned out to be just as satisfying as a celebratory dinner out.

Why was that?

The reason was the total experience of that unglamorous meal. We were warm, casual, comfortable, cuddled up on the couch celebrating an achievement while the howl of the fall weather was satisfyingly beyond the window panes. We were with family, in our home with no pretension or fanfare. The meal itself — the lowly frozen chicken parm — was the bit player in this scene.

What I learned from this is to rethink the emphasis we put on what we believe to be the highlight of an experience. We love to put emphasis on the “killer feature” of our product or the big perk of working in our organization (ping pong tables anyone?) that we fail to see the bigger context. How does that feature or perk fit into the broader context? Where is it experienced? Who with? For how long? Why? Understanding this context allows forces us to rethink the priorities in our products and in our organizations. Is it about the 1-click check out or is it about being able to get that last minute gift to your partner on a special day? Is it about the Nespresso machine or is it about creating environments that foster organic conversation, team building and camaraderie?

When we start to think of the broader context we realize that, in the right context, a frozen chicken beats a steak dinner every time.