Training and Software

Whether your software requires training or not, design training into your solution. Make it part of the product.

I tried using Superhuman, a recently PR-blitzed  (Google it up against date of this article) Silicon Valley enterprise designed for people who live in their inbox. It costs $30/month.

Maybe that’s worth it, but I tried the free version of Superhuman, which is called “Gmail”, with various features and extensions enabled, and with – most importantly – 4 to 6 hours of usage training  (whether it’s self-training or not is besides the point, really).

AI-sorting of emails? Massively comprehensive keyboard shortcuts? Undo send? Open/re-open tracking, with device and geography built in? It’s all just so 2008, I’m drowning in nostalgia. (Is Superhuman  a ninnovation play or a marketing/branding play? Hmmm).

GSuites Gmail at $5/month looks an awful lot like Superhuman at $30., a €2/month, looks a little more virtuous since, as an EU-born product, human rights and human dignity (and lawfulness) are baked in. A cocktail which tends to spur innovation (because happiness and ideation are linked).

I’ve been getting to Inbox 0 on most days since before Gmail existed 15 years ago. But Gmail has helped make that goal (efficiency and peace of mind, not emails-in-inbox count) more attainable.

But the point for builders of web applications and other software products isn’t that Google Already Did That (and you’re just re-labelling it and charging for it).

The point is, what results do your users get? As opposed to what they could get, if they knew how to use your product.

And the second point is, why do they get good results from your product.

The answer is massively dependent on those extra hours it takes to learn the product. Conventional wisdom: human-delivered services don’t scale. But think about that kneejerk line of thinking –  6 hours of precision training might scale the impact of your software more than product design or innovation ever could.

Training might be where innovation happens. I wouldn’t avoid it, I would pursue it.

I have no idea if actual Superhuman users get better results than they would get from another email client product assuming all other variables were equal. But I know that the distinction in the software world between products and services is pure literalist (ie wishful) thinking.

Conclusion: just because you find it tougher to price and monetize services than products doesn’t mean one or the other creates more value.

Almost every daily human experience is delivered through a combination of software-delivered and human-delivered value (or lack thereof).

If Superhuman lives up to its brand promise, it’s because there’s a human in there somewhere, helping it along, and not at scale. At least not in the short term.

Set me straight if I am off here (not an uncommon phenomenon).


– Rowan

June 11 2019