What is the Banana Principle and what speaks against conscious use?
Allowing a product to mature at the customer’s site
The banana principle refers to a phenomenon where customers receive unfinished products from manufacturers – without any corresponding instructions – which mature over time due to customer feedback and improvements made by the manufacturers. The term originates from a practice in the handling of bananas: these are harvested unripe, delivered green to middlemen before being sold as edible fruit.
In contrast to the sensible practice of dealing with bananas (if the bananas were harvested ripe, they would be unpalatable to customers upon arrival at the point of sale), the banana principle has a negative connotation. The analogy “the product ripens at the customer’s” turns customers into testers who pay the full price for a product without receiving a fully-fledged product. Customers want to use products and services that meet their expectations. Immature products are defective. If, for example, users talk about banana software or banana goods, then they are dissatisfied. In the worst case, the product image and/or the company image suffers to such an extent that customers refrain from using the product and in the future also do without other products from the manufacturer.
Active use of the Banana Principle
In some publications, it can be read that the banana principle is deliberately used by manufacturers to minimise the efforts – e.g. by dispensing with tests – in quality assurance or to shorten development cycles for competitive reasons. The alternative technical term is: Perpetual Beta. The phenomenon is particularly widespread in the development of software, as there are numerous update possibilities. In the vast majority of cases, however, this is not the case; it is more a case of failures in product or software development. If manufacturers want to receive feedback from users at an early stage, they could – with the appropriate communication – provide them with a feedback report, for example.
Faulty software is not uncommon. Manufacturers regularly communicate the removal of errors via change log or bug fix log. The handling of errors and their elimination are factors of customer satisfaction. Usually the user judgement “This is banana software” is individual, especially since there is no standardised metric for determination. Here, open and fair communication from the manufacturer to the customer can have an image-building effect.