Sometimes Intellectual Curiosity is a Commercial Waste of Time

Sometimes Intellectual Curiosity is a Commercial Waste of Time

I had an exchange this morning with one of my twitter buds and fellow Orlando tech person, @kurtisnelson.

I had been doing a little digging into what it would take to add printing to one of my iPhone apps, Cheap Gas!.  Namely, I wanted to have the ability to look up the cheapest stations nearby from my iPhone, and then print out a copy of the listing.

As a means of seeing what the interest level would be for such a feature, I asked my twitter stream what they thought of the idea.  Kurt was one of the first to respond with the following:

“I don’t see any point in it, but go for it if your purpose is to learn how to do it.”

First let me say, the feedback was very valuable for gauging interest.  Kurtis wasn’t interested.  If everyone feels that way, then obviously it makes little sense to devote time, toil, sweat, and tears to adding that particular feature.

The second part of his response, where he said “go for it if your purpose is to learn how to do it”, brings up an interesting question.  When should intellectual curiosity lead development of new features, and when should it be shelved to working on things that actually add new value?

In fairness, I’ve biased my response in the title of this post.

There are times when you take a risk, and do spec development, because you believe in an idea or dream.  Maybe you think you have an angle on a feature that user’s will love – and they just don’t know it yet.

And sometimes, your users are just straight up right.  Don’t fix something that ain’t broke.

About twenty years ago, I had a friend and fellow co-worker open a CD store in Nashville.  It was in a hip, high traffic area.

And he only sold music that he, personally, liked.

The store failed.  Twice (he moved the store to an even more high traffic location with an even hipper potential clientele).

Sometimes our personal likes and intellectual curiosities lead us down paths that sap limited resources (time, money, talent – you name it).

Am I saying not to be intellectually curious?  Not at all.

I’m saying that, when you have a commercial venture and you have limited time, money, and talent to create goods and services, idle intellectual curiosity is a huge – and sometimes, lethal – distraction to supplying your customers with features that they want, will use, and will crow to the heavens about.

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