Journeying through the galaxy (my childhood dream) turned out to be unfeasible as a profession, so today I’m a UX designer at Macoscope. I consumed Andy Weir’s The Martian almost in one sitting and it nearly ruined last Christmas for me as I received the final warning from Santa for being antisocial. But it was worth it, as the book seemed mesmerizingly real. Being a huge fan of SF, when I first heard about the casting decisions for the upcoming movie adaptation of the book I was very skeptical, to say the least.
But when the movie was finally released, I was blown away by the emotional dimension Matt Damon brought to the role and my own mental image of Mark Watney, the main character of The Martian. Thanks to his on-screen efforts and a touch of Ridley Scott’s directorial magic, the story looks alarmingly real. Outer space is a hostile environment and more and more businesses should relate to that. Just as The Martian’s protagonist struggles to survive by figuring his way out of the danger, subsequent industries are or will be forced to do the same. Because while interstellar or even interplanetary travel is still ahead of us, digital disruption is already here.
Your business is on Mars. You just haven’t realized it yet
The pace of change at which technology affects an increasing number of industries and businesses is only going to accelerate. Today, there is no business or industry that is not in some way affected by the rise and exponential growth of technology. For many companies this new, rapidly changing digital environment can be harsh, demanding, or even hostile. Just look at what’s been happening recently in the global taxi industry. Oh, and there’s one more thing:
“I guarantee you, that at some point, everything is going to go south on you… you’re going to say, ‘This is it, this is how I end.’ Now, you can either accept that – or you can get to work.” Mark Watney
Give up. Do nothing. Pretend everything is ok. Wait aimlessly as Birchbox for travel, Uber for lawyers, Tinder for loans or Dropbox for grocery shopping start to show up and mess around. Maybe it won’t be some newcomer company but an established behemoth spreading its operations over new grounds. Just like you can already send money via Snapchat today, soon you will be able to get all your shopping done without leaving Facebook.
You can put your shoulder to the wheel and try harder. That would be a much better reaction, seeing that more and more companies use software to build new and sometimes inventive value around their services or products. Keeping in mind that smartphones have become the most intimate devices people carry around with them all the time, you can start with mobile applications. They can empower your clients, upgrade customer experience or even blur the traditional distinction between a product and a service.
Breakaway is the Only Option
Matt Damon’s emotional depiction combined with the impressive resourcefulness of a human being struggling with reality can be a valuable lesson for every business. So what steps will you take to make an escape as epic as Mark Watney’s?
1. Check Resources
Do you remember the scene when Matt Damon gathers and counts all the food he has? Try to think of anything that can be useful.
It is likely that you already have a working business model, a product or service lineup, an established distribution network, a sales force, a media budget, and communication channels. Using them as your base will help you transform existing clients into a user base at a much higher rate than you could ever hope to achieve starting from scratch.
2. Look Around
Find your potatoes just as Mark Watney finds his way out of starvation.
There are countless good ideas surfacing around the world every week. Learn from others, see what works, what excites potential customers and what isn’t worth your time and resources. Thorough research is consistently underappreciated as a source of ideas, insights, and benchmarks. It’s always easier to start with a well-grounded point of reference.
So ask your contractors for research.
3. Find a Clear Purpose
The only goal Matt Damon has in the movie is to get out of the danger and get back home.
What’s your purpose? How will your business benefit from the implementation of new ideas? Are you going to establish a new sales channel? Or maybe it’s more about empowering your sales force with custom tools? Giving customers freedom of choice via a product creator or easy-to-use configurator? Using a mobile game to boost sales?
Your goal should be clear from the very beginning. Pick one objective and stick to it. You don’t know where to start? Good news is that some software houses can help you with that.
4. Add Value
In the original story the main character values only things that can be of any use – everything else is irrelevant. Presenting your product on a smaller screen is not enough.
There should be a problem your app solves or a process it streamlines. Above all it should be useful. It doesn’t have to be a life-changing solution but, on the other hand, a store locator and product catalogue is just not enough. This point is crucial because the value you can add to your product or service builds your competitive advantage, generates referrals, and gives the media a great reason to talk about you.
5. Plan, Build, Test, Optimize
Mark Watney is doing things and so should you. There is a moment when you should stop thinking over and over and start acting.
Get real with the idea as soon as possible. Choose to build prototypes over slideware. Demand prototypes from your contractors. Test them on your customers and get realistic data as soon as possible as it will help you implement adjustments and optimizations. This will either show the idea’s true potential or reveal room for improvement or even missing features.
6. Repeat (As You Already Have a Broader Vision)
Can you remember the hub’s perforation that destroyed Mark’s potato cultivation? You don’t have the luxury to give up. You need to repeat and try harder.
Astronauts are trained to focus on thinking about the next thing that can kill them and it’s proven to be highly effective. Companies develop apps and then abandon them way too often. When you have invested real-world time and money, make it the best possible experience for your customers. Support new screen sizes, utilize new OSes, add features, and grow your user base.
Don’t forget that it’s an app so almost everything people do with it can be measured. You learned a lot so don’t stop now – try once again instead. It will be easier with all the input and experience you’ve accrued. So equip your company and make it ready for whatever is going to happen next.
Want to know how mobile apps can help you invent new products and services? Discover what Audi build and offers as a completely new way to use a car. All thanks to an app.
And last but not least…
7. Have a Team
It’s obvious that no one can explore space single-handedly. Even Matt Damon. Space exploration is a team sport – and so is any kind of business.
A good team can provide you with an invaluable perspective and all the skills and resources you don’t have on board. Start building something new today. Here at Macoscope, we’re no Matt Damons but we’re happy to assist you as it’s dangerous to go on any journey alone.
Find out how we can build value for your business. Drop us a line.
If you are among the few people on this planet that still haven’t either read or seen The Martian, here’s the book and here’s the movie. Or you can click here for the best (and shortest) summary ever.