A tale of two teams

The design team at the small- to medium-sized engineering outfit had spent countless hours perfecting a radical new electronic device for the consumer market based on technology that it had developed in house.

And once it was launched into the market, the new device was heralded as a marvel of engineering by all those that saw it. Almost overnight, the company went from being an almost unknown quantity to a world leader, as consumers purchased the product in their droves.

The larger well-established manufacturer of similar products initially dismissed the success of the new company, assuming that it would quickly disappear off the engineering road map as a consequence of the premium price that it was charging for its products.

But it didn’t. And as the years passed slowly by, the smaller company’s reputation became so great that consumers were speaking about its product brand as if it were the market leader in the industry. 

The executives at the larger consumer device manufacturer became increasingly miffed as it saw a particular group of its customers defect to the competition. And so they called upon their in-house design team to build a rival product at a lower cost as quickly as possible.

Rather than re-invent the wheel — yet again — the chief engineer tore down the design of the smaller company’s product and then asked his design team to suggest ways to use existing technology to improve upon it while working around any patentable issues.

The big engineering team loved a challenge and the design it created certainly had all the bells and whistles of the younger outfit’s product. Indeed, the team even discovered a couple of inexpensive ways to add functionality to it that would enhance the consumer experience. Better yet, the cost to build the product was two-thirds the cost of their rival.

The company executives felt confident that their new product would not only significantly impact the sales of their competitor, but also topple its lofty standing in the market. After all, what consumer in his or her right mind would pay almost twice as much for a product that performed essentially the same function?

Sadly, while the larger outfit’s new product also sold remarkably well in the market, it was viewed by consumers and critics alike as a testament to the innovative market-leading approach first demonstrated by the smaller outfit. Sales at the smaller outfit weren’t affected by its rival either, because consumers still considered the price they paid for its product was indicative of its superior technical quality.

As flummoxed as it was by the whole shenanigans, the larger outfit realised that it too needed to be seen as an innovator in the market if it was to rebuild its reputation. And the last I heard is that the company had hired a head of innovation to replace the chief engineer. Whether this has any long-term effect on the culture of the company, however, remains to be seen.