Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Of Arugula, typoes, and handshakes

in: Create

When it comes to product design, good product managers¬† often say, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” In the early stages a good product manager needs to focus on the one thing that’s absolutely needed.

But that backfires when tight focus is used as an excuse for sloppiness. One thing taking all of the attention at the expense of all the other small things can backfire — specifically, when a user doesn’t have a well-formed understanding of the product or service and is searching for cues.

Small things matter a lot

Wilted arugula leafI recently opened up a bag of arugula, that bitter green of haute cuisine and yuppie punchlines. As I was about to pile it haphazardly on plates, I spied a single wilted leaf. This prompted me to dig further — what if I’d bought a bad bag? What if it had spoiled in the fridge? Sure enough, closer inspection revealed others. Even the slightest imperfection reinforced my perception that something was amiss.

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Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

Memo from the past: Don’t fight city hall

in: Competition, Create, Startups

Sometimes, the benefits of a new product are so awesomely, amazingly, tremendously good that people are willing to change their behaviors.

It’s not going to happen for you. Most of the time, people won’t work to try and understand a new approach. And no amount of education is going to change that.

koolaid6mixs.jpgThis is a fundamental challenge for entrepreneurs. We’re deep in the product, conjuring up reasons why it will win in order to attract investment and keep our employees motivated. But just because the rank and file is drinking the Kool-Aid doesn’t mean the rest of the world will.

There’s a great example of this, and it’s not just a small company example. It happened to the word processing industry.

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Monday, June 9th, 2008

Not following through on an idea

in: Create, Startups

A lot of startups have great ideas. But unless they follow through with them to the end, they can backfire.

Like mugs, for example. I was at a Starbucks in the Bay Area recently and someone brought in their own mug to avoid using paper cups.


Unfortunately, Starbucks tracks cups by writing your name and order on them. It’s how they survive the chaos of the morning rush. So the same company that says, “save the planet, use a mug,” puts those mugs in paper cups to keep track of them.

A lot of startups have a great idea, but they fail to think it through all the way. This is a great example of the consequences of thinking it through. If you have a concept, you need test cases. You need to describe your end user in great detail, then build a prototype, then watch them use it, and then iterate quickly.