What Founders Can Learn From Spotify’s Discover Weekly

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Spotify has a playlist that is updated every Sunday based on the music it thinks you like.

I listen to the list every week during work (usually prospecting or when I write these essays) and add the songs I like.

It’s special not for what it does but for what it does NOT do.

It gives you 30 new tracks. Not 100, 70 or 50.

It’s updated Sundays. Not daily, not on demand.

It gives you music that’s a little new. Not completely similar, not completely unrelated. 

We’ve talked about hindsight bias many times before (most recently in Why Your Business Needs More Weird Ideas — Part 1) but there’s a good chance people (unlike you) who’ll read this and find this all incredibly obvious.

That’s a cognitive error. It took Spotify a long time to figure these things out.

Not surprising. If you asked users what they wanted, they’d answer more, unlimited and on demand.

And yet, there’s tremendous value in doing the exact opposite, minimalism. Figuring out how you can improve the product by removing things (simplify) vs. adding things (feature creep).

Users wouldn’t listen to their Discover Weekly if it was updated daily or on demand. Or if it had a list of 100 or unlimited songs.

It’s just too much choice. It would be impossible for people to form a habit.

I want you to take two things away from this today:

  1. Your job is not to listen to users and blindly do as they say.  It’s to make their life better. Listening to them can give you ideas as to how to go about achieving that but always test it. Put more eloquently, you’re not a butler, you’re a doctor.

  2. Test counterintuitive things. (Which was basically the entire premise of the Why Your Business Needs More Weird Ideas series.) 

Because as you see, sometimes the opposite of what you expect might be exactly what’s best!

For more on choice, choice limitation benefits and choice architecture, I recommend The Choice Paradox by Barry Schwartz.

RJ Youngling