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Death of a Sale Item

Late last week, venture capitalist Mike Doherty offered a thoughtful response to Art Kleiner’s April 28 article in Strategy+Business.

In the original piece, Kleiner contests that the quality wars were won in the ’80s — and contends that product quality has in fact worsened since then. Doherty replies, suggesting that the current distribution and retail model (as exemplified by Wal-Mart) may be to blame. He goes on to recommend that what’s needed to stem the tide of poorly produced products is innovation.

I’d add to that and recommend that what’s needed is a smarter approach to design. Our June issue focuses primarily on the design of business, and I think we have a lot of lessons to learn, not just in terms of aesthetics, but regarding the materials we use, whether you use products and services creatively, and whether your business is built to flip — or to last.

My opinion is that most products are designed to die — so we buy more. For example, I recently replaced my turntable. And I’m highly dissatisfied with the new turntable. It’s just not as well-designed, sturdy, or resonant as my old one. In fact, one friend remarked that for the same amount of money, I should’ve bought a used turntable — it would be better than the new one.

She may be right.

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