I tried something last week that I had never tried before. Something I had only ever seen other people do. Something I had laughed at. And scoffed at. Something I never expected to do…ever…let alone last week. I rode on a Segway.
Or more accurately, I went gliding on a Segway.
Yes really. We took a ‘guided Segway tour’ of a city near where we are staying. There were six of us. My son. Me. And four friends (three adults and another teenager). And we all loved it. Every one of us and every bit of it. The training only took us five minutes. Training which was – at the same time – very hard and very easy.
The hard bit was the moving, turning and stopping – all of which involve actions that are completely counter-intuitive. The easy bit is that despite this ‘non-instinctive control’, it was amazing how quickly we all picked it up and how confident we all felt after only a few minutes ‘gliding’ around the car park. And then we were off. We glided on roads, on the boardwalk, side walk and even up to a local castle. We covered miles and miles in no time at all and with no effort. We listened intently (well I did at least) to the local history from the excellent guide. We saw so much. We had so much fun together.
I have no idea what the Segway inventor had in mind when he innovated and created. What was the problem he was trying to solve? What was the opportunity he had in mind? I can’t believe that guided city tours were top of his mental check list. Or Shopping Arcade security. But that’s where you see them…and laugh at them (but not me – not any more). Presumably he conceived of replacing bicycles? Or walking? Or both? Whatever his idea, I have to say that the Segway is an amazing piece of technology. It balances itself (with you on) and even ‘self-regulates’ its own speed.
In truth I think Segway was a solution to a problem that did not exist. I drive when I need to get from where I am to where I need to be. I walk when I am in no hurry. I ride when I want exercise. Segway gliding is none of these.
Creating a solution to a problem that does not exist is a risky business strategy. If it works it can change everything for everybody – think iPad – if it doesn’t….it won’t.
But it seems that Segway has found its niche. Guided city tours are perfect for Segway. But someone else had to come up with that idea. A guided city Segway tour with a teenage son is simply an outstanding vacation morning. We both enjoyed ourselves and have talked about little else since.
So any ‘game-changing’ concept – by definition – has potential to ‘change the game’. But such an idea will only work if you are a true genius (at marketing as well as invention), or if you truly understand your target market and the problems, issues and opportunities that genuinely exist.
I haven’t come across many geniuses in my time. So – unglamorous as it may sound – quality market research is always a good thing. The better the Voice of the Customer….and the more you listen to that Voice…the better.
But I am a Segway convert. I have even looked up how much they cost (wow), and how much you can them for second hand (still wow).
I know I won’t buy one though. But I also know I will ride one again. With my son. Soon.