The Product Chasm — How It Works vs. How It Looks

Why do so many top executives don’t seem to get “product”? This is the second post of a series that introduces 9 different mental models that separate “modern product management” from “the business”. I found these models, when reading through the responses to my question on product twitter.

How It Works vs. How It Looks

Design is only the UI.
What many exectuives think ...

While John's thought actually is about fundamentally different understandings of the word product, he uses an analogy that I would like to highlight with this post. He refers to the fundamental (mis)understanding “design”.

Most product people have the pleasure to work with designers, they know what design is about. While most execs only see what the end result “looks like”. They don't know what it takes to design a tech product that is both desirable and usable — unless they have done it themselves early in their career. But even then, a lot has happened since then.

Alright, what now?

There’s obviously no easy way to just overcome fundamental differences in how to think about product and business, and the relationship between these domains.

In our experience, it all comes down to establishing a shared frame of reference, a common vocabulary, a grammar even, a shared language that allows for better communication and understanding. And because human beings are very good at processing information and sharing thoughts in a visual way, it certainly helps to use a visual form to make that shared frame of reference accessible and usable for everyone.

Once we start using such a visual framework to make different perspectives explicit, and to explore the connections between everything business-related with everything product-related, we’ll see new shared mental models evolve. Such ones that will lead to new insights, and to new shared narratives, and to new shared stories, to memes even. Because that is how mental models spread and connect.

That is why we have created The Product Field many years ago, and why we are building Field today — providing a shared frame of reference for everyone who contributes to product outcomes (including executives!), and helping product leaders facilitate the process of connecting the mental models at play. Not just to cross the chasm, but to make it a little smaller every day.

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