08 / Mental Models: Make Intelligent Decisions, Product / Market Fit is a Trap, A New Religion for Designers, The Story of Spotify Personas
Welcome to Issue 08!
How much thought have you put into how the way you think affects the way you make decisions? In the software industry, we talk a lot about communication, skills, position, and authority in decision making. Have you ever considered that it all starts, first and foremost, with the way you think?
I was recently introduced to the term “Hive Mind” and how there are positive and negative connotations with its meaning. We can either have a “collective intelligence” or “uncritical conformity.” It made me wonder… am I encouraging the communities I lead to have uncritical conformity or collective intelligence? I’d like to think its the latter, but in reality it takes a lot more effort to encourage diversity of thought. But it’s worth that effort for me. So I share with you four articles that touch on helping us think differently.
In Shane Parrish’s Mental Models, he explains how we’re all specialists, which affects the way we think about a problem. This intrigued me, especially with my fascination with the generalist and specialist debates. I could clearly see how cross-functional teams (product, design, development, sales, marketing, support) benefit seeing problems in a three-dimensional way by combining all our metal models.
The generalist in me wants to encourage you to learn as many mental models as possible that relate to product profitability, consumption, creation, and execution so that we can improve the way we solve problems — both internally with our teams with the creation of the product and also externally with those who experience what we create. So join me in digging in to Shane’s 109 different mental models and broaden the way you think to make better decisions and create more impactful products.
Enjoy and have a great week!
— Ben Peck
*Please let us know of anything else you think would be valuable to share in the newsletter.
Mental Models: The Best Way to Make Intelligent Decisions (109 Models Explained)
“The quality of our thinking is proportional to the models in our head and their usefulness in the situation at hand. The more models you have — the bigger your toolbox — the more likely you are to have the right models to see reality. It turns out that when it comes to improving your ability to make decisions variety matters.
Most of us, however, are specialists. Instead of a latticework of mental models, we have a few from our discipline. Each specialist sees something different. By default, a typical Engineer will think in systems. A psychologist will think in terms of incentives. A biologist will think in terms of evolution. By putting these disciplines together in our head, we can walk around a problem in a three dimensional way. If we’re only looking at the problem one way, we’ve got a blind spot. And blind spots can kill you.
Here’s another way to think about it. When a botanist looks at a forest they may focus on the ecosystem, an environmentalist sees the impact of climate change, a forestry engineer the state of the tree growth, a business person the value of the land. None are wrong, but neither are any of them able to describe the full scope of the forest. Sharing knowledge, or learning the basics of the other disciplines, would lead to a more well-rounded understanding that would allow for better initial decisions about managing the forest.”
Out of the hundred and nine models, here are some of the mental models I found interesting that very much apply in software decision making. There are too many I like to share here so check them out!
- Law of Diminishing Returns
- Chaos Dynamics (Butterfly Effect)/ (Sensitivity to Initial Conditions)
- Margin of Safety
- Network Effects
Product / Market Fit.
Product / Market Fit is a Trap.
“Reaching product/market fit is just a side-effect of doing the right things. The only way to get there is to focus on product and distribution.
Now you might say … wait a minute. Focus on product and distribution?
What about market?
There is no such thing as your Market.
Let’s have a look at what market really means in a more actionable way …”
Broadening our breath of understanding.
A New Religion for Designers (an interview of John Maeda)
“There’s a stereotype that creative people don’t make good leaders. They’re all the stereotypes you shared earlier: they’re imaginers, dreamers, non-executors. But we live in a time that needs extremely agile, creative people who can manage ambiguous situations and effectively collaborate in teams. Part of my work is pointing out that there are exceptional leaders who are hybrids — they are creative, they can speak Bauhausian and can understand the slide deck, but they can also speak about ROI.”
By Rachel Been and Google Design
The Story of Spotify Personas
“Here at Spotify, we often ask ourselves who we’re designing for. And since listening to music is so universally popular, it might seem at first that the answer is ‘everyone’. After all, Spotify is available as a free and paid product. It can be used by anyone with a phone, computer, car, set of smart speakers or many other devices. It’s present in over 79 markets and it offers experiences — like Daily Mixes — that are personalised to every single listener.
Yet designing for a mass, generalised audience isn’t likely to end up pleasing ‘everyone’. So in 2017, our team was challenged to create a better understanding of existing and potential listeners. We wanted to agree on how to differentiate the needs of these listeners and the problems our products could solve for them. We needed a solution that was durable and flexible enough to work for autonomous teams, working out of different offices, in different countries and on different parts of our products. And we were determined to put a face to our listeners — an identity that everyone at Spotify could recognise and talk about with ease.
We responded to this challenge by designing personas.”
by Mady Torres De Souza, Olga Hording, Sohit Karol
// Job Openings
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Abstract // Design Advocate // US-based remote
— CONFERENCE SPEAKER ANNOUNCEMENT
Nate Walkingshaw: Chief Experience Officer at Pluralsight
Nate started his first company in 2004 where he revolutionized medical evacuation with Paraslyde. Stryker Medical acquired Paramed in 2009 and Nate led global R&D at their emergency services division.
In 2011, Nate left Stryker to build Brightface, a product development company that focused on mobile and web applications. Cycleface was one of those products and was acquired by Strava, the #1 fitness app for endurance athletes.
Nate then became the Chief of Research and Innovation at Tanner Labs, where he built OC Tanners first human-centered product development team.
Nate currently serves as the Chief Experience Officer for Pluralsight, the largest providers of online technology learning, where he built a user centered product team, and oversees Product Management, Development, Content, and Product Marketing.