Tool builders are tool users are tool builders
Let’s think about products and services as tools. They connect humans creating and humans experiencing value. When tools change the way we see the world, they also change the way we work and create value. What happens when we change our tools?
Value creation happens by the people inside the organization. They contribute their labor to produce and implement a thing. If all goes well, these people are empowered to give their best without burning out. They invest their knowledge, competence, social skills, and craft to build the product. They establish routines and processes to keep going and work well-organized. They partner with other teams and companies. They buy materials. And they use tools (products, services — think: things) to build that thing.
People outside the organization use that built thing. If this thing is a good thing, it has a positive impact on the users. They experience value. The thing offers a solution to their problem — a solution that is better than existing alternatives. It fits their needs. It helps them to pursue a certain motivation. It gets the job done.
People use tools to build tools
Let’s think about things as tools. Tools are important elements in our culture. Tools shape our world. They shape how we see the world. They change the way we act. They change the way we work.
If you do have three minutes, right now – watch an exceedingly great part of a talk by Wilson Minor on Vimeo, beginning at minute 8:00. The presentation is ten years old – but the concepts he shares last way longer.
When tools change the way we see the world, they also change the way we work and create value. While this change happens, new knowledge is created. That’s why we replace existing tools with better tools.
People replace existing tools with better tools.
Designers dropped Photoshop and started working with Sketch, as it helped them to produce better UI-Design. They are leaving Sketch and start working in Figma as it enables them to collaborate earlier, easier, and more often. They forget that they once used Invision and did developer handover in … (Uhm, what was the name of that tool starting with Z?). Developers went from CSV to SVN to git. Coding has always been social, but not as “:+1:”-social as we comment pull requests today on GitHub. Developers dropped SublimeText in favor of Atom, dropped Atom in favor of VS Code to use SublimeText once again. Some are still as fast in vi as back then when others switched to VS Code (but collaborative live coding?).
What is a developer without their IDE? What is a UI Designer without tools for UI Design?
As humans, we are tool builders.Steve Jobs
As humans, we are tool users.
Others build things that we value and therefore use to build things that others value and therefore use to build things … and on and on and on.
As product persons, we are using tools as well. Some are generic, like Microsoft Office or Google Docs, Zoom or Teams, Mural or Miro. Others are specific ones: for road mapping, issues tracking, or project management. Then there are custom-built solutions: We use Excel, Airtable, or Notion to create a tool for our team and ourselves that fits our needs perfectly
What we have been missing: A tool to continuously collaborate on product strategy while developing innovative products. That is why we are building Field. A bicycle for our minds when we-thinking about product strategy.
ICYMI: Our SXSW talk “A Language To Foster Innovation”
tl;dr — There is now a post-produced video of our talk: Learn a product innovation language that lowers the risk of innovation failure significantly, and how companies can adopt it.
Visual Thinking for Product People
Collaborating on products and thinking about product strategies needs visual thinking. Visual thinking not only helps to grasp complexity better than reading a linear text, it also opens your mind to other perspectives.
What Horst Rittel knew about Product Development and Innovation
Not one writing about the history of “Design Thinking” is missing Horst Rittel, the design theorist who coined the term “wicked problem”. But there is way more to learn from Rittel’s early teachings: Here are three things, product people need to know.