In this episode, a common product management metaphor that’s actually terrible, plus two GOOD metaphors you can use to help you create better products.
We use lots of metaphors for understanding, justifying, and explaining the things we do as product managers. Whether it’s our analytics as “the cockpit of a plane,” or comparing design constraints to Mozart symphonies, or even saying the product manager is “the CEO of the product.”
Not all product management metaphors are created equal
But there are good metaphors and bad metaphors. Mostly this comes from how they are used. The “CEO of the product” metaphor, for example, is useful in some ways, but highly misleading in a very important aspect. (That is, unlike a real CEO, product managers don’t have the authority to make things happen. We operate on influence, not authority.)
One metaphor in particular, that of software development as “a factory,” has always bothered me, and I explain why. And also what is missing from our thinking about that metaphor and where there real value might lie.
And I talk about my favorite product management metaphor, courtesy of Alan Cooper in his great book The Inmates Are Running The Asylum – the polite waiter at a good restaurant. It’s very powerful, and helped me create what I think is the coolest feature I’ve ever delivered.
Here are the links I mentioned in the episode.
- The Inmates Are Running The Asylum, by Alan Cooper. In the episode I mostly talk about the 14 types of politeness (I said “18 types of politeness” at one point – oops!). But there’s another great concept in the book as well – personal goals. As I mentioned, I have a few posts, a podcast episode, and a video about the “personal goals” concept.
- My mindmap of the 14 types of politeness. See the Instructions node for guidance. (You will also want to refer to the book for what each type of politeness means.) Mindnode version. Markdown export.
- An article from Fast Company about why car manufacturers still use clay for modeling their cars: “‘We always came back to clay.’ The problem is, he says, digital projections can’t accurately show how light will play on a car’s surface. ‘You can’t replicate the sun.’”
- Some Quora answers about how long it takes to take a new car model from planning to manufacture.
- The transcript of this episode (actually, the script!)
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