The Product Chasm — These Mental Models Separate “Product” and “The Business”

Earlier this year, I asked product twitter why so many top executives don’t seem to get "product" — despite such valuable insights and thought leadership from so many popular product thinkers out there. I was hoping to find some cues that help us connect the two worlds, to explore the intersection of “modern product management” and "the business“.

After reading through all the responses and converging them to a list of leading thoughts, it became pretty clear to me that the chasm between “product” and “business” is a lot about different mental models.

Yes, some thoughts also reflect on other obvious aspects that are at play here. Such as a pretty common level of scepticisim when one tries to lecture the other. Or just a general (and mutual) lack of empathy for one another.

Mental Models

According to wikipedia, “a mental model is an explanation of someone's thought process about how something works in the real world.” One might also refer to them as concepts, or beliefs, or mindsets. Mental models can be very individual, or shared across groups.

When looking at the data, I found shared mental models among “modern product thinkers” that occur to be very different from or even contrary to the ones shared by top executives of big or fast-growing companies.

Specifically, these nine “mental model counterparts” came up in the conversation:

  1. Long term thinking vs. short-termism
  2. How it works vs. how it looks
  3. Failure is part of the game vs. failure is not an option
  4. Systems thinking vs. linear planning
  5. Team sport vs. strong individuals
  6. Continuous product development vs. launch product, then sell it
  7. Customer value vs. shareholder value
  8. Philosophy vs. solutions
  9. Learning vs. knowing

IMO, these mental model counterparts all deserve special attention, so I decided to do a blog post series and highlight each one of them with a short blog post — starting with Long term thinking vs. short-termism, today.

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