Building products and the art of Lego

Are you building without heeding the instructions?

John Larkin
Jul 19, 2014 · 3 min read

The highlight of last week for me was watching my 5 year old building a lego Batman themed motorbike. The Joker was obviously riding a giant yellow duck, what a rascal that guy is. He started out by admiring the picture of the completed toy on the back of the box, then enthusiastically ripped open the box and spread all the bricks all over the floor. Grabbed the instructions and got to work. Within no time, he was proudly showing me his creation.

It was only later on that I realised he had tought me a valuable lesson. I was out for dinner catching up with a friend of mine that I don’t see enough when we got talking shop. He is from the world of finance, so not really technical at all, but smart enough to get how things work and so on.

We were talking about MVPs and building tech products and how the process works when I used the lego example from earlier in the week.

You wouldn’t start building a lego castle by just looking at the picture on the back of the box would you?

Its super important to have the final vision and plan in your mind. But construction begins with a single brick. Follow your instructions and it is a lot easier and more efficient.

If you start building ad hoc, you risk ending up with a monstrosity.

“Hey lets add on a tower here on the side”

“Maybe we could do with adding in another drawbridge so more people can get into the castle”

“We need wider doors to let people in”

“We have a security risk, lets build another wall around the outside”

“We need better foundations, the structure is unstable now”

These things happen every single week when you are building a web based product. Customers demand features, investors demand revenue, and in-house stakeholders push whatever priorities they might have a vested interest in.

We need to keep one eye on the big picture, the back of the box. And stay true to that vision by drafting up instructions to follow and then then do our best to stick to the plan, despite all the distractions.

Only that way will you end up with the beautiful product you envisaged at the beginning and not some mutant hybrid product with no clear purpose or function.

Have you drafted up your instructions or are you building with just a vague idea of the final plan?

Has this given you a reason to think about how you build technical products? If so — recommend it! ☺

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