In the Summer of 2015 I was encouraged by some coaching friends to start sharing some of the basketball coaching ideas I used as a high school basketball coach. They encouraged me to use Twitter.
I was not active on Twitter at the time so I was starting from the ground floor. I suppose the ideas were good and I had a knack for the platform, because my following grew and I was able to turn that following into a full-time job mentoring coaches. This is all a great illustration of the positive power of social media.
But something often happens with apps, software and digital products – a phenomenon called “feature creep.” It is often their undoing, and it can undo coaches and teams as well.
What is Feature Creep?
Here’s a great explanation of feature creep:
Feature creep happens when a product team continues adding features to the point that they undermine the product’s value. Users complain that the product is becoming too complicated or confusing or can’t find the functionality they need.
The defining characteristic of feature creep is that the newer features go beyond the company’s original product vision. These new features get added slowly, over time, and the process unfolds gradually enough that the product team doesn’t realize their product suffers from feature creep. (Courtesy of productplan.com)
Twitter was at its zenith when it was at its simplest (140 character limit, simple following feed, hashtags to organize tweet topics). The simplicity of the app made it accessible and user-friendly and as a result it took the world by storm. Then feature creep gradually set in…
The character limit was expanded (beginning of the downward slide in my opinion), subscriptions were introduced, there have been all sorts of experiments like Revue and Spaces. Twitter “threads” – multiple tweets replying to oneself to tell a story – somehow got encouraged and now clog timelines. Twitter lost its founding principle – brevity.
Elon Musk took over and since then Twitter has lowered the guardrails on misinformation and messed with the user verification process. The app now features two “feeds” which have become convoluted to the point of confusion, frustration and near ruination.
Feature creep is common in a lot of apps and software. It’s easy to assume you’ll create a better product if you include more features. More features will translate into more value for your users, right?
Actually, in most cases, the answer is no—it will not.
If Twitter fails and goes bankrupt, it will only have itself to blame. They could have been content with a simple, effective and addictive app that raked in billions, but chose feature creep instead.
Feature Creep in Coaching
How, you may ask, does any of this Silicon Valley stuff impact basketball coaches? Well, basketball coaches are notorious feature creepers!
It’s starts like this. You take over a program that is underperforming, you focus on fundamentals and simple concepts while building the program and you start to get “good.” Time to add, right? Wrong…
Adding, tweaking, tinkering, experimenting with, perpetually introducing new “stuff” is the coaching version of feature creep. You think these new “features” will add value to your performances, when often they just eat up practice time relative to their value. More options will make for a better offense, right?
Actually, in most cases, the answer is no—they will not.
What results is a not-so-user-friendly version of your offense or defense that your players have to interact with. Performances start to deteriorate and you only improve when you decide it’s time to delete, simplify and “get back to basics.”
Twitter couldn’t just stay simple and rake in billions, and you can’t just stay simple and rake in wins. Or can you?
Avoiding Feature Creep
Here are some tips for staying simple and raking in wins.
- Focus on core domains – Tactics (more features) take a backseat to the big things that make losing disappear such as athleticism, skill, basketball IQ and competitiveness. Your real daily task is enhancing those four things.
- Create a Game Model – And follow it! Start your job with a Game Model and stick to it until you’re good at it. When you’re good at it, just keep doing it!
- Learn to say “no” to feature requests – Social media will tell you this is a “must add action.” It isn’t. Your staff will bombard you with requests for X’s and O’s additions, especially after losses. You will see ideas, some of them good, that you could add but should you? The best can say “no” even to good ideas in the name of preserving simplicity.
My hope is that Twitter survives. I use it everyday and have built a business and several high-value connections with it. Whatever competitors arise will likely make the same mistakes.
If Twitter doesn’t survive my hope is that we heed the perils of feature creep in our own endeavors. Start simple, stay simple, and keep raking in wins.
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