Product, Design & Engineering: The Public Development of Everything Paradigm

I’ve read, well, a lot of stuff about product management. Some advice stuck, some advice didn’t. For example, I’ve heard many, many engineers say, “You build two systems. The first is a prototype. When you build that one, you learn how to build the real one.”

Over the years, this bugged me. I’m not an engineer, and the idea of, explicitly, asking somebody with better skills than me to create something – only to throw it away on purpose as soon as possible – sounded like the worst sort of advice.

So this morning, after having yet another parallel discussion, I realized something. The main reason I detest hiring an engineer to build the prototype is that I don’t want anybody else to build the prototype. Other than me. I’ve outlined my three step process as it stands today in the diagram (below, old school notebook. I’m classic that way).


Let’s start with the basics, because this is a pretty hard diagram. Three steps, a bullet point to explain each, etc and a lot is simply left off, in favor of “Narrowing the focus,” for ease of knowledge transfer. If telepathy is off the table – and more importantly, mind control directly over one another is off the table – then, we have to figure out the right communication protocol. Just like HTTP 2.0 over HTTP 1.0, or perhaps better said – the “Fist Bump,” out performs the, “Handshake.”

Why? Well, hand shakes are old school, and more likely to transmit germs. However, removing the interconnection completely from the communication means that the only thing we interface with is a terminal – *never another human being*. We’ve already figured out how to simulate away and measure the human experience, from dreams to love to success, sales or marketing.

What’s left, then? Without purpose, there is no, “Human condition.” So, let’s assume that while we automate everything, we’re left with a single, solitary purpose: figure out, individually and in society, how to communicate effectively what our goals are…and, how we can collaborate to achieve them. Sometimes, those goals put us at odds.

Other-times, those goals unite common enemies. It really depends on the situation at hand.

Let’s review the product, design, engineering process I use in my work. Could be, somebody out there is building something. Like me, could be you abhor excessive “Re-work,” like the folks at 37signals / Basecamp.

  1. Idea person (let’s call them, “Product Manager,”) wants to build an escalator. However, the problem they were solving was that of, “Ascension,” or rather, “Getting from the ground floor to the first floor.
  2. After they have the idea to build an *escalator*, they realize, nobody gives a flying fig about escalators. However, they understand the idea – getting to the fist floor above the ground.
  3. A flash of genius, and, the Product Manager builds a staircase. Then, he walks up and down, over and over, while chatting with the designer and the engineer.
  4. The Designer realizes, finally, that the objective of getting to the first floor above the ground is a useful one. It enables, “Stacking,” or, putting a whole second teir of experience on top of that first. A parking garage, for example, is far more useful when, “Piled High and Dry.”
  5. The Engineer realizes, finally, that walking up the stairs is not the point. The point is to “Ascend,” to the second floor. Or, put another way, to enable somebody to rise to the first floor above the ground.

With this experience behind them, the designer then helps the engineers to invent electricity, motors, gears, architecture and more. These innovations, as we refer to them, enable the regular folk who *love* the idea of ascending to the first floor above the ground to get there – faster than they could have ever imagined, perhaps, on their own.

Or, perhaps they could. However, without the requisite idea (the Product Manager, perhaps) which becomes manifest so that people, other people, can help build out the actual factual system…nothing ever moves. Nothing improves.

A butterfly’s wings might never actually kick off a hurricane on the other side of the globe. Or they do, all the time, and it’s only the combined might of all the other butterflies, flapping in the opposite direction, that prevents a global catastrophe.