Legacy vs Change: Another Example

Yesterday I wrote about how Microsoft sacrificed legacy usability for innovation and didn’t quite succeed (at least not according to adoption metrics.)

Today I came across a Slate article that discusses Barbie’s evolution across the decades and I realized that the legacy vs. innovation debate is alive and well outside the tech industry.

“This is a 55-year-old brand where moms are handing clothes down to their daughters, and so keeping the integrity of that is really important,” Kim Culmone, vice president of design for Barbie, explaining why the dimensions of Barbies haven’t changed throughout the years, even though consumers would like more realistic dolls.

Ready for her closeup!

Ready for her closeup!

To which the writer of the Slate article, Ms. Hess, responded “if Barbie fattened up, millions of girls around the world would have to buy all-new wardrobes for their dolls, and that would be … I don’t know. Lucrative?” Indeed.

The truth, as Ms. Hess points out, is that Ms. Culmone is afraid of change. Barbie is the world’s number-one selling doll, and “many parents and kids will keep buying endless iterations of her just the way she is.” Why change anything when the current model is the category leader? Even if your customers want a change?

In the tech world, a new start-up would fill that void and snatch the number one position with a product users prefer. In the world of toys, where the barriers to entry are extremely high, it’s not that easy.

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