The Science of Successful Things: Star Wars, Steve Jobs, and Google’s Epic Fail Derek Thompson BigThink

December 30, 2017 by Laura Gomez

So, how do you make a product successful? You make it out of something old. The Atlantic editor Derek Thompson gives a more studious explanation of this answer as he poses the question: why did Google Glass fail and why is the iPhone the most profitable product in human history? Poor design comes to mind, but the answer, Thompson suggests, is much deeper than that. Both were wild new inventions, but Google Glass ultimately failed because it looked like a prototype and not at all like any product that consumers had ever seen before. It seemed alien, and that was a bad thing. Butt the iPhone, on the other hand, is merely a design update of the iPod. Consumers already understood how to work it before they even picked it up, and therefore buyers already knew what they were in for. It’s this familiarity itself that is the selling point, as this logic applies to the world of storytelling, too. Derek explains the “hero journey” similarities between Star Wars, The Odyssey, and… The Bible. Derek’s latest book is Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction.

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine, where he writes about economics and the media. He is a regular contributor to NPR’s Here and Now and appears frequently on television, including CBS and MSNBC. He was named to both Inc. magazine’s and Forbes’s 30 Under 30 lists. He lives in New York City.

Derek Thompson
Senior Editor, The Atlantic

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