Impedance Matching and Product Onboarding

“Impedance” is a measure of how a system resists the inflow of energy. Often, a system can be changed to accept energy more efficiently, by adding an element called an “impedance matcher.” W. Daniel Hillis

In short, an impedance matcher helps transition the energy. Think about a seawall vs the beach. A seawall does abruptly changes the energy of a wave, creating a large splash. A sloped beach allows a wave to gently roll up the shore.

Impedance matching is a good metaphor for onboarding into a new product. Imagine you sign up for a new product. Maybe you’re jazzed and excited to go. You get dropped into the product and now what? No guides, no tutorials, limited support. You have all this energy ready to go but it fizzles. Eventually you churn because you just didn’t get it.

The opposite can also be true. You’re excited to get in and use specific product features but instead you get strict guard rails that make you go through an arduous setup process before you can get to those features. Maybe you just think the product is too complicated at that point.

Impedance matching can prove to be a powerful concept. You have to connect and translate the energy into the environment in the most efficient way possible. Abstracted to onboarding, you have to match your customer. Product market fit may be another way of saying you’ve found the ideal energy translation: getting the pent up energy of the market translated into something useful (your product).