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On May 25th Gogoro—the Taiwanese electric scooter brand—hosted a live press event to make some "big announcements.” I had been looking forward to this event. As a Gogoro owner, early adopter, and fan, I feel an intimate interest in the brand and their ability to innovate.
I can honestly say that, up till now, I’ve enjoyed most of my Gogoro experience. I wrote an article encouraging people to buy one. It’s a great scooter. In terms of design and overall quality, they didn’t cut corners. I’ve also enjoyed the feeling that, by riding a Gogoro, I’ve been doing something good for the environment. I also discussed this in my Gogoro owners review as well. Unfortunately, I have to admit I've experienced a fair amount of frustration as well.
I was desperately hoping that some of my frustrations would be addressed during the event and that I would see some innovative updates involving the brand, business model, and scooters. I was hoping they could renew my belief in the brand. I was hoping to see signs they were listening to people like me.
What I heard instead was the launch of a new lower priced, economically designed Gogoro 2. In many ways, it’s better than the original Gogoro. They gave it a bigger, more comfortable two person seat. It has a more compact touchscreen display. It can be serviced at any scooter shop in Taiwan—as opposed to mine which can only be serviced at a very expensive Gogoro store. It goes as fast as the original but "110%" farther on a single charge. While it costs me $300nt per month for a measly 100 kilometers of battery (My actual bill averages around $1000nt each month), the new Gogoro 2 owners will get unlimited kilometers for $500 per month—a much fairer deal.
The new Gogoro 2 appears to be a smart business move. I assume they will sell a lot more of this version. While many of my friends think the new design is less than attractive, I don’t actually hate it myself. I think it looks fine. It’s just more average looking and cheaper, and in the end that’s what most people seem to prefer these days anyways—average and cheap. Something about that just brings me down though.
After the presentation wrapped up, I felt four things concerning the brand and relationship with Gogoro:
- Let down that my concerns as an owner were overlooked
- That my expensive scooter had been devalued
- That Gogoro is doing what they need to do to stay in business
- Curious as to why companies like Gogoro can’t fully realize innovation
I’ll skip the first three and discuss the fourth, more important topic—innovation—because it pertains to more than just Gogoro, but to all brands in Taiwan who are looking to innovate.
There are generally six things that any company, brand or organisation needs in order to genuinely innovative.
- An unorthodox, distinctive approach
- An ability to embrace diversity
- A diverse, open and creative culture
- Empathy for the consumer or customer
- The ability to execute and practically take action
- The ability to be confident and bold
Gogoro is doing two of these really well. First, they are clearly taking an unorthodox and distinctive approach to their product, design, and communications. Their design thinking and presentation of the product is as good and compelling as any of the most admired brands in the world, including Apple. Second, they are confident and bold. It takes confidence and a bold set of thinking and determination to do what they’ve done so far.
What I feel they probably aren’t doing very well, is the rest. If Gogoro can increase the range of the Gogoro2 up to 110% then why can't they do this with their innovation as well?
I could be wrong about this, but I’m going to assume that as a Taiwanese company their workplace isn’t a champion of diversity. There may be one or two foreigners working in their marketing department, but I’ll assume that over 98% of the workplace is Taiwanese. I can understand this, Taiwan isn't America, and having mostly Taiwanese in a Taiwanese company sounds reasonable. But It’s hard to innovate when you only have one type of thinking taking place in your organisation. Some people in government are trying to change this (read about it here) because they know that If you want to innovate, you need different types of people, with diverse mindsets, ideas, lifestyle and attitudes populating your environments and sharing their ideas.
Second, I’ve heard Gogoro has tried to build a creative workplace environment for it’s employees. But I’ve also heard that while it appears creative, the culture lacks creative authenticity. You can create the best-looking offices in the world, but if your people don’t participate, and you don’t encourage actual creative culture, then it’s just advertising and it won’t translate into innovation.
Gogoro is partially listening to it’s customers. But since—I feel—they are still looking at us as customers instead of a community of users, it hasn’t been able to develop real empathy for us, which means they don’t understand what’s really driving our needs and feelings about the brand. If a brand can’t understand, then it can’t innovate.
Gogoro is taking actions, but perhaps not the right ones. my opinion of course.
Gogoro is a great product, and I still recommend it. However, these days my recommendation simply comes from my desire for cleaner air, and quieter neighborhoods than it does from my love of the brand.
Currently there's no other scooter quite like it on the market. If you want a good, fast, reliable electric scooter, the only choice is Gogoro—but that could change.
Let me be clear about something. I'm not trying being "negative." In fact, most of what I've said here is fairly positive. I'm trying to be constructive by voicing my own concerns. Like many others, I love Gororo and care about their success.
I'm also not saying that Gogoro isn't innovative—they are. I feel they are the most genuinely innovative brand in Taiwan right now. They've created a good product that's unlike anything else. I'm just trying to express my feelings that their innovation could—like the new Gogoro2—go a bit further.
I have hope for the brand: I hope they made the right decision with the Gogoro2 and that they sell enough to keep the business alive and thriving. I hope their success enables them to take better care of, and listen more attentively to the needs of it’s users. I hope in the next coming years they are able to take their innovation 110% farther as well.