Lessons Learned From The Failure Of Segway


I have never been on a Segway but they look like a fun way to get around. On vacations to various islands it seems that one of the things you can always do is rent a Segway to go exploring around town.

While they look like fun, Segway’s have been a failure as a commercial product. Paul Sloane who has written several books on innovation recently wrote an interesting blog post analyzing why the Segway failed. Sloane’s analysis highlights some lessons to learn for your innovation efforts:

1.Expectations were too high. The Segway was described as the future of transport. As an innovation it was said to be on a par with the PC or the internet. Inevitably it could not live up to this level of hype. PR exposure is generally useful but this time it was overdone.

2.It was a product not a solution. The product works well but it lacked a support context. Where can you park it? How do you charge it? Do you use it on roads or sidewalks? Our cities are designed for pedestrians or speedy vehicles and this was neither so it had no proper infrastructure to support it.

3.No clear need or target market. Who was the target market? Who really needed this? It was an appealing novelty but there was no compelling need for anyone to buy it – and it was very expensive ($5,000).

4.It was an invention rather than an innovation. The Segway was patented and kept under wraps until its launch. There was no user feedback or iteration in the process. Its inventors were then surprised when people criticised or ridiculed the design for being ‘dorky’ rather than cool.

5.Regulation. The Segway fell foul of regulation in many countries where it was banned from sidewalks and roads because it did not fit any existing categories. This is a problem for a truly revolutionary product – but it was not properly anticipated.

If you are working on an innovative product, the five points highlighted above are items you must consider.

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