Glenn made an excellent comment to my last post pointing out that "innovation is critical to success", and therefore being first can have tremendous value. As an example, he poses a good question, "should Apple quit producing the iPod because Microsoft comes out with one that offers more?"...of course not. Innovation and improvement is natural...and more importantly, it's what we all want.
My point is that the intrinsic value of being first diminishes (sometimes evaporates completely) when something better comes along and/or when what you've introduced becomes a standard. Take complimentary internet access for example. Glenn mentions Omni for being an innovator in providing free broadband. Agreed, and we all thank them (and a few others) for paving the way. But now, that story of being the first, has very little value on its own...because people care about getting what they want (the ability to easily use their notebook away from home), not necessarily who introduced the idea a few years ago. And, as more and more hotels offer this once unique service (for free) it becomes a standard. Then, it's no longer unique or remarkable...and the incremental value is lost, unless of course you're one of the few that don't have it. that's not value...that's a problem. However, as Glenn correctly points out, the image of being an innovator, willing to try new things and to be the first to discover and deliver what people want, is a great story...and has longlasting returns. But, I'll add that earning that label also requires repitition. What are Apple and Omni going to do next?
So, perhaps a better way to say it is this...make new and extraordinary things that people want...and do it over and over again. Just don't hang your hat on each one too long.
Read more of Glenn's great riffs on his Customer Service Experience blog.