With Great Power: How Hard Questions Improve Brands & Products

By Vanessa Boynton

I recently read Motherboard’s article on the wave of destruction our increasingly networked lives could usher in. It got me thinking about responsibility – where it begins, where it ends, and which individuals and companies should endeavor to carry the most weight. No matter how novel our ‘smart’ devices may be, they are all contributors to an expanding web; how confident can users be that all of these brands, large or small, are keeping an eye on the big, scary picture?

The truth is a lot of brands, regardless of industry, have never been tasked with answering brutally provoking questions. They’ve never been forced to examine their place in an ecosystem far grander, or farther in the future, than the daily routines of their ideal customers. And here’s why that’s a problem: refusing to imagine your brand’s potential pitfalls not only undermines your ability to respond to crises, it keeps you from thinking about how the brand should continuously adapt to our world’s relentless, hurried evolution. By burying your head in the sand, you are actively planning your obsolescence.

And this, in the age of collaboration, when we the users want our brands to work together to fill in the gaps and do us the best possible good.

You won’t just be doing your brand and your business a favor by regularly taking a hard look in the mirror. You’ll be demonstrating that you place your customers’ well-being above all else, which will earn you a level of lasting goodwill that literally can’t be bought. So before you launch your latest product update, settle on a new logo, finalize product features or even finish your business plan, make sure you and your colleagues have wondered OUT LOUD:

  1. How does our product fall short? How would we improve it, if we could?
  2. How might our product be corrupted? Who would corrupt it, and why?
  3. What happens if our product breaks or fails today? Next year? Five years from now?
  4. What do we do to protect our customers? What could we do if we had more resources?
  5. How do we express our mission in a way that makes sense? How do we build the relationships we need to get better?

Feel like you could use some help? There’s people for that.