Lewis Carroll’s Advice to Product People: A Blackout Poetry Project


One of the vital ingredients for anything or anyone, to cut above the din and to be heard.

For instance, take these two functions:

  • Blackout poetry (or erasure poetry)
  • Making products

Both bring creativity into play. Both operate within constraints. And both strive, to make the best use of what’s available, to cater to their respective audiences’ needs, and, to be heard.

So what would happen if we, in fact, combine those two? What would their outcome be like?

And who better, than one of the most original thinkers that the world has ever seen, can help us out in this endeavor?

Presenting to you, one of Lewis Carroll’s masterpieces: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and its hidden nuggets of wisdom for product people, unearthed.

Chapter I. Down the Rabbit-Hole

When there is no one to eat, it would be of very little use to make a beautiful cake

“If you build it, they will come” is totally overrated. Only build those products/features that your customers will find value in.

Chapter II. The Pool of Tears

The telescope of thought took a moment to see what was coming. It was the returning wonder of all sorts of things that don’t scale

Bring in the human element. Go the extra mile to show your customers that you care. Such tasks will be laborious and might be unscalable, but are vital to set a strong base for your business to build upon.

Chapter III. A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale

Listen well enough, to those silent voices, to know that something is nonsense or is remarkable

Conceiving an idea is crucial. What’s equally crucial is validating it. Just talking to the customers won’t cut it. Listen to those unspoken words, observe their behavior. Take note of those little cues. They’ll show you the truth.

Chapter IV. The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill

The first chorus of something turning into a bright idea wandered about in doubt and difficulty, trying to believe and stick around for the opportunity quite faint in the distance

Even though they seem to be fragile initially, every single idea matters. They can crop from any nook and corner, and can go on to change everything. Believe in them. Don’t turn them down. Tend the spark.

Chapter V. Advice from a Caterpillar

Change is a puzzling question that might tell something worth hearing, if replied right

Change is constant. And, trend-hopping has its own perils. Be mindful of when to adopt a change, and remember, it should always tie back to your product’s core value.

Chapter VI. Pig and Pepper

The shape of a day is a way of expressing what was and what would be the explanation of: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’

We’re all weird. We’re all unique. Embrace that weirdness with open arms, treat your work like a gift for someone, and bring yourself into your work.

Chapter VII. A Mad Tea-Party

If you mean to learn music, stand on good terms with time, to manage a great concert

There are no bars to innovation/creativity. Everything else, however, is limited. How you put them to the best use, will make all the difference.

Chapter VIII. The Queen’s Croquet-Ground

The paint spoke of nothing but the eager hearts that smiled in reply to the inner children

The child within us is free from inhibitions, and doesn’t hesitate to go back to the drawing board. Connect with your inner child. Foster that creative courage. Don’t let inhibitions get the better of you.

Chapter IX. The Mock Turtle’s Story

To beautify is to make a thing simple

Simplicity is about making something more enjoyable and less painful. Take away those frills and fluff. As Steve Jobs stated, make your product look great both inside and out.

Chapter X. The Lobster Quadrille

Deep work tears down the sea of time to create things which matter

In the age of distractions, superficial efforts would hardly make a dent in the world. You have to dive deeper and work harder to make a marvel.

Chapter XI. Who Stole the Tarts?

For the great crown, say nay to stupid things

The key to making a great product is learning to say “no” to those add-ons that might throw you off the track. Don’t get derailed. Stick to your vision.

Chapter XII. Alice’s Evidence

The oldest rule in the book ought to be to begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end

Your care and commitment cannot be diluted with time. There’s a reason why Apple has been standing tall for the past forty years. Your vision and your commitment to that vision must stand the test of time. Show the world that you’re in it for the long haul.


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Akash, Sadhana, and Anusha are product marketers at Chargebee. You’ll find them writing about the lessons, observations, and stories on the business of SaaS on the Chargebee blog.