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Books About Products

By Carl Kritzinger Jun 04, 2014

This is the second part of my attempt to list and distill the most useful books that I’ve read. This installment deals with my ongoing obsession - the creation of (new and interesting) products.

Building things is hard. Building useful things is harder. Building things that people want is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do. These books have shaped the way I think about building things: How to decide what to build, how to build it efficiently and how to help your users understand what you’re giving them.

The Four Steps to the Epiphany - Steve Blank

A new business is not a microcosm of an existing business - completely different rules apply.

Existing businesses focus on making their operations more effective, while a new business should be completely focused on searching for a repeatable business model.

You can use the scientific method to understand your customers and to discover a feasible business model and the product that enables it.

The Lean Startup - Eric Riess

Lean start-ups are focused on reducing “waste”, which is any effort or product that does not create value for the customer.

The most effective way to achieve this is with small, repeatable cycles of:

  • building product
  • measuring customer behaviour and
  • learning about the customer

The Innovators Dilemma - Clayton Christensen

Creating disruptive new products (those which fundamentally change the business model) from within an existing company is extremely difficult.

The rational decisions that are good for an existing company will make it unable to respond effectively to new market conditions and will thus open it up to disruption by new companies and products.

To create disruptive new products, you have to be willing to sacrifice some or all of your existing business.

The Other Side of Innovation - Vijay Govindajaran

The easy part of innovation is the part where you sit around and think up cool ideas.

The hard part is taking those cool ideas, turning them into products and integrating those products into your existing company.

This is possible, but requires careful attention to the dynamics between the dedicated (to the new product) team and the performance engine that runs the existing business.

The Design of Everyday Things - Don Norman

This was the first book that recognised user experience as crucial factor in creating a competitive edge.

To create good user experiences you have to understand how your users relate to your product and how they think your product works.

Based on this you can decide what user interface features encourage ("afford") users to perform the correct actions to achieve their goals.

Minimum Viable Personality - The Fake Grimlock

Merely building useful things is necessary but not sufficient.

To win, you have to make sure that your product has a personality which users can relate to and engage with.

(Although I realise that including a blog post is a bit lame, this essay is so important to me that I couldn't bear to leave it out.)

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