if you want some crocs, better buy them soon

Another book that I read on my trip is Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History by David Aaronovitch. It looks at a number of conspiracy theories from around the start of the 20th Century up to the present time. Some of them have had deadly consequences (e.g. the myths surrounding the protocols of Zion which led pretty much directly to the holocaust), while others have been a bit more benign. In all cases, Aaronovitch makes a fairly convincing case for the premise that conspiracy theories are often the result of people who are not achieving the political or social outcomes that they want, and who use the idea of a conspiracy as an explanation for their failure.

Since an important part of innovating is getting your new ideas to spread, looking at how bad ideas spread can be useful. In this case, the bad ideas are spreading because they provide some level of comfort to people (even though they are usually expressed hysterically). In the case of the economy, bad ideas that spread are probably best characterised as fads. There’s no good reason for them to spread, and often they replicate for reasons that are unrelated to their features or benefits. A lot of firms try to find the next fad, but in the long run, it seems to me that it is better to try to build success by providing a solid product or service, rather than simply through letting people feel like they belong. Now that the fad part of their lifespan has passed, it looks like if you really like Crocs because of their features, you better buy more pairs soon, just to use a recent example of a bad idea that spread widely!

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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4 thoughts on “if you want some crocs, better buy them soon

  1. I have never owned a pair of Crocs and didn’t really know what they were until long after the peak of their popularity. Thus I feel I’m perfectly qualified to comment objectively.

    I’m not sure why Crocs are considered a bad idea. They seemed like a fantastic idea for those who’d find them useful – namely, people who needed to be on their feet and may even get those feet wet, and who would benefit from the antibacterial nature.

    It seems to me what happened is that they became a fad, the most dangerous kind of fashion trend. When the trend ends, no matter what the original positives that got it going were, they are bashed. The Salon article’s title – “Admit it — you used to do this, like, toootally uncool thing that all the cool kids say is not cool now” – smacks of this.

    To put this into the context of spreading innovative ideas, what the makers could’ve done rather than go the bubblish fad route was make them firm healthwear only. In all likelihood, they would’ve become popular eventually anyway, for not only the feel of them but also the health benefits. They might’ve fadded slightly but overall they’d have more likely become part of permanent useful pop culture (which is where they’re destined for, anyway – this was just a spectacularly bubbleicious stopover, with attendant backlash). Further, other uses for the foam rubber – which undoubtedly have to come along (have come along?) – would’ve had more ease of entry into public consciousness from the P.O.V. that they are useful but ugly, like so many things – rather than that they are the thing! this year.

    To put this into the context of the economy, this is exactly what causes our continual bubbles.. *sigh* Great and spectacular excitement over ideas no one really understands fully, and an attendant crash.

    ..I’m reading the part of Irrational Exuberance about the media’s influence on bubbles. It’s fascinating!

  2. I think you’re pretty much dead-on with all of that Amber. Crocs aren’t inherently a bad idea – as you say, they definitely have a niche that they could serve. But Crocs as a trend (or status signifier) are a TERRIBLE idea, and that is the one that I was talking about. And the problem is that the company expanded to meet the bubble-level demand, which makes it probably impossible for them to continue to meet whatever might be the baseline-level demand for Crocs…

  3. Turns out Amber said what I came here to say. I’ll just add that at least Crocs aren’t Uggs.

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