Why Speed Should be a Dimension not a Metric

What’s the difference between a “dimension” and “metric”? In today’s e-commerce planet if you claim to be a leader without any knowledge of analytics built around this business then you are probably telling a lie. For those who are data-driven, you would probably add the definition of a “segment” to this discussion, nevertheless the intent of this article is not about the mechanisms of analytics. This preamble understanding of the difference between a “dimension” and “metric” is however important to appreciate the centrality to why speed should be considered as the former “matter” and not the latter which I will explain in a while.

According to Google — “Dimensions describe characteristics of something… Metrics are quantitative measurements.” I stumbled upon a great article below on how “speed” always win in business. Personally I can’t agree more and how on earth can business win if it takes years or months for change to happen given the speed at which our highly competitive landscapes evolve. I must say I am a victim of this truth at both ends of the spectrum having worked in businesses that are extremely fast and slow.

Nevertheless it is interesting to share some stark contrasts in the dichotemies to this philosophy

Move fast, crash fast

Some years back I was a product manager involved in a project to set up one of Europe’s most successful online furniture store in Asia. The setting up of the business was lightning fast, every nitty-gritty detail of it from legal to logistics, landing pages to loyalty just to know that the market is not ready for this type of goods. People were just uncomfortable buying without trying out the pricey leather sofa or touching the marble dinning table top imported from Europe. Even though the idea succeeded in another part of the world, it didn’t mean business models and consumer behaviour translate across continents. In less than three months, the business was shut down.

Move slow, learn more

Apple’s iPad was a sensation when it was launched in 2010 and has become a common lifestyle gadget but was it the first tablet that existed on Earth? Nope. I could still clearly recall carrying my bulky Toshiba tablet computer that had a fully flippable resistive touch-screen to conferences some years ago before the iPad was launched and mocking at myself nowadays my disbelief that the tablet experience can never be improved.

In 2010 Steve Jobs mentioned that “no one would buy that… (phone with 5.5 inch screen)…” and about five years later, Apple launched the iPhone 6 series phones with that size. Apple ate her own words but it could well be a strategy to observe the world’s reaction to phones with large screens offered by Samsung before taking the plunge.

Three cases, similar outcome — first mover doesn’t always win.

So should businesses move fast or slow? If we tag speed to everything in business as a metric then we are nothing more than a bunch of hyper-active beings but if we learn to discover the beauty of waiting, learning, re-purposing and adjustment then we truly become intelligent humans.

Therefore “speed” as a “dimension” means it should be an attribute of us (or our business) because it should not be a universal rule but a strategic judgement call instead.

Hence the next time you encounter the topic on “speed” being everything, think again, because the true nirvana should be when “speed” has transcended from a metric to a dimension.

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