Lessons Learned From The Failure Of Segway

I have never been on a Segwaybut they look like a fun way to get around. On vacations to various islands it seems that one of the things you can always do is rent a Segway to go exploring around town.

While they look like fun, Segway’s have been a failure as a commercial product. Paul Sloane who has written several books on innovation recently wrote an interesting blog post analyzing why the Segway failed. Sloane’s analysis highlights some lessons to learn for your innovation efforts:

1.Expectations were too high. The Segway was described as the future of transport. As an innovation it was said to be on a par with the PC or the internet. Inevitably it could not live up to this level of hype. PR exposure is generally useful but this time it was overdone.

2.It was a product not a solution. The product works well but it lacked a support context. Where can you park it? How do you charge it? Do you use it on roads or sidewalks? Our cities are designed for pedestrians or speedy vehicles and this was neither so it had no proper infrastructure to support it.

3.No clear need or target market. Who was the target market? Who really needed this? It was an appealing novelty but there was no compelling need for anyone to buy it – and it was very expensive ($5,000).

4.It was an invention rather than an innovation. The Segway was patented and kept under wraps until its launch. There was no user feedback or iteration in the process. Its inventors were then surprised when people criticised or ridiculed the design for being ‘dorky’ rather than cool.

5.Regulation. The Segway fell foul of regulation in many countries where it was banned from sidewalks and roads because it did not fit any existing categories. This is a problem for a truly revolutionary product – but it was not properly anticipated.

We need more innovative approaches to government and when implementing new ideas, the five points highlighted above must be considered.


Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Gordon Lee Salmon

Paul thanks for your post on lesson learned on innovation from Segway. Besides seeing tourist riding them around the city, usually in packs with a “mother duck leader”, I see the parking enforcement folks on them and police on foot patrol. So there are commercial uses too. The challenge for government innovations is to think outside of the organization’s silos and see where else new ideas can be used so the wealth can be shared, and ultimately, costs cut.

David Dejewski

I’m not so sure we can chalk this up to a complete failure. I’ve ridden them myself and ad a great time. They really helped in San Francisco!

I have a neighbor that rides his Segway almost every day to go walk his dog. He’s not able to walk otherwise and his Segway still get’s open-windowed “Wow’s” from kids – as recently as this morning.

I’m also thinking the Segway has stimulated thinking in products like the Tek RMD. Video below.

I’d have one myself, but the price point was just too high. If they’d found a way to produce them on a larger scale and lower the price point, I think a lot more people would be riding them. I suppose they fell down on their marketing strategy.