Field of Dreams fallacy

“The Field of Dreams” was a movie from 1989 that made the line “If you build it, they will come” famous. It is a beautiful line. There’s only one problem – it is almost never true.

This is a hard lesson for most people to grasp. It certainly was the case for me. But, building a product alone doesn’t guarantee success. Even a product as irresistible, in hindsight, as Facebook, had some savvy marketing behind it when it launched. And, we call the most successful books “best-selling,” not best-written.

Products rarely sell themselves. Perhaps one product in a million manages that. They almost, always, need a story. It is generally too late if you are stuck crafting a story after the product is made. So much better to build the product and the story together. In the long run, the product is the strongest part of the marketing. In the short run, you need to build a story that makes the product desirable in a manner that is consistent to what it is really about.

Don’t fall for the “Field of Dreams” fallacy. Don’t build it and wait for them to come.

Plan for them to come. Tell a story. Make them come.

8 thoughts on “Field of Dreams fallacy”

  1. Great post Rohan! The way you’ve written it today makes it stick well to the side of my brain.

    Related is Derek Siver’s technique where he asks people “if I build this, will you come?” and keeps trying different ideas until enough people say “yes”.

  2. You are absolutely right. The product and the story are both critical and one cannot survive without the other, at least not for long. Longevity and commercial success require those two pillars to be established and to evolve

  3. Rohan,

    When it comes to the concept of whether they will come or not, it’s important to look at the nature of the product itself. Are you inventing something original, and more importantly, is it something that others THINK they will need? Like the invention of the air plane and light bulb. Then yes, you build it, and people will come. You’ve found that hole in the market, others are hungry o fill in.

    Back in the early days, it’s easier to invent that new technology but nowadays, a lot of folks can do it and suddenly the market shifts. You have so much choices, so many options which is why things like publishing and praying doesn’t work.

    Thanks for sharing!


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