Product First
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Product First

Product First Principles

My uncle Ronnie, whom I think I met only once when I was 3 years old, taught my father how to drive according to his 4 rules of driving. My father, in turn, taught me and I’ve never forgotten them. In no particular order, they are:

  • Anything bigger than you has the right of way

When I was 15 and learning to drive, this list terrified me. Years later it amused me. But now, this list fascinates me — in two decades, I have yet to find anything I’d add to this list before I teach it to my son.* Everything on this list has saved my life. Adding more information might distract from these memorable truths of “how to not die in a car accident.”

The clarity, honesty, and brevity of this list frame my understanding of first principles, which I seek to identify in everything I learn. What are the elemental, atomic truths that hold true in all cases? These are the things worth knowing, worth writing about and passing on to others.

In my ten years of product experience, I’ve sought out scholarly articles, books, and modern-day philosophers of product first principles. And I haven’t found many. It seems this way of looking at the world may be too new to have come fully into focus. There are no university degree programs, no classical education tracks for the fledgling product person. But surely there are first principles worth writing about.

That’s the basis for this blog. I haven’t got it all figured out, but I hope that as I write, others may find this exercise interesting and join in on my hunt for product first principles. I’ve identified a list of topics worth writing about, in no particular order:

  • Influencing without authority

If this list looks like stuff you’d want to read about, follow along!

*Additional life-saving rules for driving welcomed in comments. I’ve added one piece of advice from Dan’s parents to the list I’ll give my son: “never break two laws at the same time.”

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Kate Horowitz

Silicon valley product manager. Founder, OrganHouse.org. Published thought leader and public speaker on consent and alternative relationships.