Product #59

Product #59


Think Like an Architect · Hal Box · 2007

If you want to become the best in the world at what you do - be a student of your discipline and those that surround you. The best product managers have an appreciation for engineering and design. But as with the craft of product management; we haven’t been designing and building digital products for that long. Borrowing some inspiration from one of the world’s oldest design disciplines seems an entirely appropriate move for an aspiring product manager.

There’s much to be enjoyed and admired in this book. It can help you see your city for the first time. I now have a much greater appreciation for architecture.

Product Managers can learn a lot from learning to think like an architect - the commonalities are clear, architects sit at the intersection of disciplines, they have to make tradeoffs just like Product Managers. I’d recommend this book for anyone who wants to repeatedly build beautiful, functional and viable things.

Key Takeaways

Architecture being the art of space, can't be fully appreciated unless you experience it in full size. Much of the architects effort is above eye level, so look up next time you’re walking the streets.

The author defines being an amateur as somebody who admires or is devoted to something. There are too many people in positions of influence that aren’t amateurs of architecture. Do you think about ways to make your city or neighbourhood more beautiful? When you put pencil to paper to describe an architectural idea, do you get excited about getting it down so that you can understand it and explore it?

Being an architect is more difficult than becoming one. Things you need to become an architect…

  • To be able to conceptualise 3D shapes
  • To draw (learnable through practice)
  • Extensive travel and an interest in architecture
  • High intelligence and enthusiasm
  • Be able to take criticism (the Crit session is an important part of learning)

An architect works at the intersection of art, engineering and business.

Draw to think. Build useful things from your thinking. Start to place each part of the project in a hierarchy. Once you have one that works. Start over and see if you can do better.

First: do no harm - don't damage the neighbourhood, streetscape, natural environment or the budget. Most buildings are inherently ugly, unless great care is taken you're likely to make the street worse. Make sure what you build is better than what you’re replacing.

Pencil is the tool of choice, as much is erased as drawn

Focus intensely obsessively, passionately as an eccentric genius BUT don't fall in love with your drawing too soon. "Architects are often too quick to form".

Every man is a borrower, and a mimic - it's OK, go and seek inspiration from elsewhere.

Seek complexity, avoid complication.

Deciding design issues requires a generous conversation between you and others. A critique tests your design before you've committed to it.

If after 7 iterations you end up where you started. What have you gained?.. Conviction!

Always ask how much a change will cost. A surprising number are free.

Once symmetry enters a composition, it demands to be continued.

  • There are number of special ratios
    1. Golden ratio: 1 to 1.618
    2. Square root of 2: 1 to 1.414 (made in ancient cultures, by taking the diagonal of a square with a rope)
    3. A square: 1 to 1
    4. Double square: 1 to 2 (softer and less overwhelming than a cube)

At the city level, streets are corridors, open spaces are rooms - parks are gardens.

Full Book Summary · Amazon

Subscribe Button 

Quick Links

Apple partners with Open AI to bring ‘intelligence’ to their operating systems · Article

The only thing that matters (the essay that introduced product-market fit) · Article

How to fix the Double Diamond of design thinking · Article

Benedict Evans on building AI products · Article

A 4 step process to move you from feature-based to outcome-based roadmaps · Tweet

5 different Product-Led Growth pricing strategies by Ant Murphy · Article

Different types of moats (that block competition) · Article


The Endowed Progress Effect: How Artificial Advancement Increases Effort · Nunes, Dréze · 2014

This research documents a phenomenon we call the endowed progress effect whereby people provided with artificial advancement towards a goal exhibit greater persistence towards reaching the goal. By converting a task requiring eight steps into a task requiring 10 steps, but with two steps already complete, the task is reframed as one that has been undertaken and incomplete rather than not yet begun. This increases the likelihood of task completion and decreases completion time…

Relevant to product managers and designers who’re looking at their new user experience (NUX) and onboarding flows. We often throw users into multi-step onboarding workflows - it seems like a no-brainer to make use of this effect.

View the Paper


Book Highlights

When product strategy is articulated in terms of user behaviour to create or modify, we are expressing strategy in terms the product development teams can directly impact Dave Martin and Andrea Saez · The Product Momentum Gap
Roadmaps have dates. Pipelines use impact/effort/confidence to prioritize the best ideas. By saying Pipelines are preferable to Roadmaps, I simply mean that Pipelines give you flexibility as you try to reach your Objective. If you call it a Roadmap but treat it like a Pipeline, that’s fine. The critical idea is that you have a long list of potential solutions to try out. Christina Wodtke · Radical Focus
The product vision serves as the shared goal for the product organisation. Marty Cagan and Chris Jones · Empowered
Breakpoints happen in the transitions between team sizes. Whether we’re talking about independent businesses or teams within a larger company, shifting between these size groups is always hard Tony Fadell · Build

Quotes and Tweets

"If you're having trouble sticking to a new habit, try a smaller version until it becomes automatic. Do less than you're capable of, but do it more consistently than you have before." James Clear