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The Change Function: Why Some Technologies Take Off and Others Crash and Burn First Edition Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1591841326
ISBN-10: 1591841321
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Editorial Reviews

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"Build it and they will come." Only for Kevin Costner, according to Pip Coburn, former Global Technology Strategist for investment house UBS. Dubbing all consumers "earthlings," Coburn reasons that most people will not adopt a new technology until the perceived benefits outweigh the perceived pain of trying to learn something new. Coburn has taken years of research notes and created a series of case studies about individual technologies to prove his theories of failure. Using quotes from Aristotle to Einstein, plus dozens from columnists of now defunct technology magazines, Coburn makes some interesting points about technologies that consumers, oops, sorry, "earthlings" care about, such as Internet phones, HDTV, and the iPod. But most readers will not know what an ASP is (application service provider) much less why they should care. Alpha chips, early interactive TV, picture phones from the 1960s, tablet PCs, and companies like Iridium and Webvan were probably of significant interest to Coburn's investors back in the day, but they do little now to engage any earthling's interest in why these technologies failed. Gail Whitcomb
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


'Every page is a tug at your lapels to see things his way. The world would be a better place if we did.' Wall Street Journal 'The book gives a common-sense rundown of the reasons why some ideas do not take off and will be salutary reading for those who believe that the IT workd does not follow the normal rules of business and industry.' Professional Manager (July 2007) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover; First Edition edition (June 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591841321
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591841326
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #706,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I didn't think I would like this book much. If the author really had the secret truth behind success and failure of technologies he should be a billionaire rather than an analyst or an author. However, after I started reading I realized that the author was really providing a kind of primer for those considering the actual market viability of making a product / service using technology and a way for people considering investments in technology a tool for measuring the possibilities for success.

He begins by describing the traditional view of technology products using Moore's Law and Grove's law. They are traditional and well understood. With Moore's law the secret is increasing power while lowering cost and you get to a tipping point of acceptance. Grove's law is that if you provide an order of magnitude in improvement (10x) you can replace in incumbent technology. While these are good yardsticks, they can lead to technologies used in products with no markets. You know, the old mousetrap being sold in a world with no mice.

Instead, to get the focus shifted to market place realities, the author, Pip Coburn, offers what he calls the Change Function. Basically, you have to look at the Crisis the product / service addresses for the customer versus the Total Perceived Pain of Adoption. Until the Total Perceived Pain of Adoption (TPPA) becomes significantly less than the Crisis, you will not be adopted in the marketplace and cannot succeed. I think this is a good way to look at thinks. However, I would do that in addition to Grove's law. I still think it is a fundamental measure of the kind of difference their needs to be between the Crisis and TPPA.

The author takes us through a variety of winners and losers and even makes some predictions (i.e.
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Format: Hardcover
The book felt like hype for Pip Coburn's investments. It contradicts itself in numerous places and its examples are sketchy on details and facts. For instance, cost is rarely even a factor and that's the magic of the "change function", but in chapter 4 it seems to be a significant factor in the failure of Iridium/Globalstar. His hyping of satellite radio was very one sided. He mentioned none of the reasons many investors already consider it a failure- if you want customized music just buy an ipod, the most important 20-30 year old demographic can't afford brand new cars with XM and have a "free music" mentality, and the infrastructure costs with satellites combined with still needing ground antennas makes it uncompetitively expensive. Intel did not give up on MHz increases because customers did not care. They gave up because they are hitting technology limitations as silicon approaches the limits that physics will allow. Salesforce.com is mentioned practically in every chapter as a godsend example of a great company, yet I can easily apply Coburn style methods to counter this enthusiasm. My biggest disappointment was this one sided analysis throughout the whole book.
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Format: Hardcover
Don't let the title fool you: this is a book all who persuade for a living need to read and embrace. The Big Idea: it's not the service that matters but whether the customer or client is ready to adopt what you're selling. The status quo bias will prevail until a crisis driven client needs the service you are selling and the pain of adoption is lowered to the point where the bias does not block the change. A simple but elegant idea that he talks about with lots of examples.The last three chapters help you integrate his ideas with a case study, questions to ask to see if someone is customer centric or self centered, and a To Do list to become the first and not the second. The writing is direct("earthlings do not want to learn, nor do they enjoy learning"), peppered with interesting quotes and charts, and ends at 213 pages. Let me stress the 213---so many books are really fattened up articles, and this one is not. As Coburn might say, the crisis of not knowing his message is high(we need to know why people do what they do), and the perceived pain of adoption is low(a weeekend spent reading the book).
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Format: Hardcover

A unique and refreshing view of change; and it is penned by a former technology securities analyst. Who would have thought it?

Pip Coburn, who runs his own advisory firm and former managing director and global technology strategist, looks at his industries through the view finder of the consumer. And he does it in a lively style that delivers sharp insights into why a few technologies soar; while most fall flat on their faces.

It is simple. Yet, like many simple ideas it captures the essence of change. Ready?

People are only willing to change and accept new technologies when the pain of their current situation outweighs the perceived pain of trying something new.

Quoting everyone from Machiavelli to Yoda, Coburn topples clichés about innovation and change spouted for years by overpaid gurus and the equally overpaid CEOs who employ them. In only takes a few pages of reading before you can answer questions that have been plaguing you for years, like:

* Why do you have so many passwords?

* Why your VCR flashes 12:00?

* Why your spell check Capitalizes words you Do not want capitalized?

* Who thinks a smart phone is smart?

* Who asked for interactive TV?

Pip Coburn is a keen observer. He views his field from a unique vantage point. Time spent with this book will give you new understanding of technology. Linger over its message for a while; you will become a wiser investor, manager, CEO or computer geek.
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