Last week when I waiting to board a flight I heard this announcement on the intercom. "If you have a Galaxy Note 7, immediately let one of the crew members know, as they are neither allowed on board nor in your checked luggage."
One might assume the announcement has aired accidentally, a relic of the period when the first series of Samsung's smartphones was bursting into flames.
But, what's truly remarkable is that it actually refers to a second series that has been catching fire.
Samsung tried to fix the problem by changing battery suppliers and updating the phone's software, according to CNN. However, it recently ended production of the devices after customers reported the new phones were catching fire, too.
The bottom line: millions of phones have since been recalled and the venerable Samsung brand has been badly tarnished.
Last year also brought us Volkswagen's out-and out consumer deception. The company installed software that could sense when its cars were undergoing emissions tests "and then activated equipment that reduced emissions," according to The New York Times. During regular driving, the software turned the equipment down, "increasing emissions far above legal limits, most likely to save fuel or improve the car's torque and acceleration," the newspaper reported.
So, what does a product failure have in common with a knowing act of deception? For me, it is a simple case of market failure driven by the sometimes unreasonable demands of consumers and investors alike for more, more often. Many companies can't resist the pressure to release products that aren't ready to be put to the test, to their peril.
As an innovator, you may find it heresy for me to say to slow down and innovate at your own pace, and not at the speed demanded by your customers, investors or other stakeholders. Well, in large part, I agree with you. If you come to the party too late, you will miss the fun (and the profits).
However, there is a caveat that I would now add. Quality and customer satisfaction trump speed to market.
Some time ago, business was driven by the paradigm of ready, aim and fire. Today, much has been written about the fire, ready and aim approach. In essence, we are taught to do before we think rather than think before we do. The idea is to launch a "minimum viable product," and refine it based on customer feedback. That may work when you're beta testing among a tiny group of people friendly to your company but it can backfire when you're playing to a larger arena.
While I have no first-hand knowledge of the decisions or actions taken by the teams at Samsung or VW, it seems like spending a little more time thinking and moving a tad slower could have saved them much angst and public embarrassment.
What I suggest to entrepreneurs is a little back-to-basics thinking in readying your new product or service to market. Consider the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Ask yourself if what you are launching is something that you would be happy using yourself. Would you be proud and confident enough to hand it over to your spouse, partner, child or parent? Sure, they may have some suggestions for future improvements and that's okay. But this suggested slight, momentary pause just may add a lifetime to your business' success.
Samsung and VW may overcome, over a long period of time, the incredible public and financial damage done to their brands this past year. However, as entrepreneurs, it is unlikely that our businesses would be able to bounce back from something comparatively devastating in scale.
I'd recommend this rule for 2017: Fire. When ready.
Ken Tencer is chief executive officer of design-driven strategy firm Spyder Works Inc. and the co-author of two books on innovation, including the bestseller Cause a Disturbance. He holds the Institute of Corporate Directors certification (ICD.D). Follow him on Twitter at @90percentRule.