Different Micro Realities

the concept of “the umwelt” coined by biologist Jakob von Uexküll in 1909 — the idea that different animals in the same ecosystem pick up on different elements of their environment and thus live in different micro-realities based on the subset of the world they’re able to detect. Eagleman stresses the importance of recognizing our own umwelt — our unawareness of the limits of our awareness:

I can see this in different ecosystems I observe – the entrepreneur ecosystem, the learning ecosystem and the microcosm of our own product teams and businesses.

In the startup ecosystem, different players – startups, investors, mentors and customers have different micro-realities about products, businesses, and markets. While they overlap somewhat, sometimes they are very different.

In the learning ecosystem similar micro-realities exist between institutions, teachers, students and learning experts.
But the best example, I have seen of these different micro-realities is in a product team or a business.

Source of inspiration

This Will Make You Smarter: 151 Big Thinkers Each Pick a Concept to Enhance Your Cognitive Toolkit

What do Product Managers do?

The term “Product Management” evolved somewhat. For me, it was a confusing term. Product Managers (AKA PMs) did not fit into either development or marketing roles. I list three good articles that demystify Product Management.
  1. Evolution of the Product Manager
  2. The Product Manager Contribution
  3. How product managers are becoming mini CEOs

There are also two books I like.

Product Management Books - Inspired


My son suggested that I read Inspired.  A few days later, I forgot the title and was searching for books on Kindle, when I found 42 Rules.

product managment books - 42 rules

Reading them, I realized that:

Product managers play the role of glue between customers, products, marketing, sales and engineering.

Thinking Through the Design of a Product is Fun

I was talking to a student. He is fascinated with a robot that cleans pipes. He had a prototype and won some awards. He wanted to discuss it.

We sat with him and brainstormed many ideas for the design at a very high level. I encouraged him to think about a different cleaner robot – one that cleans water tanks. Our discussion lasted half an hour and it was one of the most rewarding exercises I did today.

Thinking through the design of products is fun. When you do it as a small passionate group, it is even more fun. One of the reasons I hang out with a lot of engineering students.

LinkLog: Mobile Game Development

From The Philosophy of Game Development

Mobile gaming is a huge worldwide opportunity at the moment, having clocked in at $9 billion in 2012, and it is poised to grow further in the coming years. With the world’s 1 billion smartphones scheduled to almost double in number by 2015 and games responsible for a whopping 66 percent of all app revenue, it’s easy for anyone to do the math and see where this is going.

Game development continues to have a bright future, but only for those who can develop profitable titles.

“Inspired” by Marty Cagan – How to Create Products Customers Love

This book is almost everything you wanted to know about building products. Not everything. Every essential thing. This book demystifies product discovery, opportunity assessment and how you can build great products. It covers the essence of a great product culture.

I just loved it.  Every product entrepreneur and product team should buy a copy. I think I will read mine several times. Thanks to Sriram (my son) for suggesting it.

Here are snippets from the book (I may have to do this as a series of posts). Let us start with a few.

It does not matter how good your engineering team is if they are not given something worthwhile to build.

It is not enough to do a good job engineering a product. At least as important is discovering a product that is valuable, usable and feasible.

There is a tremendous difference between how the best companies produced products and how most companies produced products.

Examples of opportunity assessments, product principles, product strategies, product roadmaps, product specs, prototypes, personas and prototype testing and tasks.

Products – Three Pictures Worth …

I think these three pictures will tell you a lot. May be enough to start some simple analysis.

1. You decide whether your product is sustaining existing value, evolutionary or revolutionary.

You decide whether your product strategy is sustaining, evolutionary or revolutionary2. The next step is business and technology validation:

3. You decide how you want to grow. This picture is a more detailed version of 1.

Meta (the story):

1. I first saw these four quadrants from a tech talk by Alex Bruton at Google. I must have seen the video about 2 or 3 times.

2. I noticed a reference to Jacoby and Rodriguez in Alex’s slide. So I googled and found this amazing book on Building Design Strategy edited by Thomas Lockwood and Thomas Walton. I was lucky to find a Kindle edition. I don’t have a Kindle but consume most of those books using my Kindle PC.

I am glad that you can go from watching a video, to getting an image to searching for the topics to reviewing a book  and buying a book and blogging  in less than 10 minutes. Wonders of technology!

Wealth Hidden in Infinite Niches

I am glad I am on Twitter. I don’t post relentlessly in this medium. I do keep my presence alive and mostly enjoy the connections. Once in a while a good thing happens. Some one you don’t know connects to you. You don’t know why they did, so you go out to check their profile, a bit of what they post and make a decision to follow.

It happened to me today and I am glad David decided to follow me. That is how I discovered 1000 True Fans and a bunch of very interesting sources. If you are an entrepreneur of any kind, I am sure you would enjoy reading this.

A few snippets:

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.

One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.

The key challenge is that you have to maintain direct contact with your 1,000 True Fans. They are giving you their support directly. …You also benefit from the direct feedback and love.

You don’t need a million fans to justify producing something new. A mere one thousand is sufficient.

This formula – one thousand direct True Fans —  is crafted for one person, the solo artist. What happens in a duet, or quartet, or movie crew? Obviously, you’ll need more fans. But the additional fans you’ll need are in direct geometric proportion to the increase of your creative group. In other words, if you increase your group size by 33%, you need add only 33% more fans.

At my company iMorph, we want to serve a small number of customers extremely well. Some of them pay a mere $25 and some of them more than $25,000 every year.  It does not matter. Interacting with customers, the users of your products, listening to their suggestions and watching them use your products in ways you never thought of, is one of the greatest joys. That is why I like the philosophy of 1000 True Fans. A few thousands is a small number, enough to support a  small business and still provide enough time for innovation and improvement and interactions.

Early Adopters

I went to an eLearning meet a few years ago in Cupertino. I met no one in the group before, and there were some interesting discussion on learning tools. Towards the end I asked them whether any of them blog. The strong reaction I got surprised me. “Blogs are for people who have nothing else to do” said one person. “Who wants to watch pictures of cats and dogs and read people’s rantings” said another. I was not sure what to expect, but these pre-conceived notions gave me all the signals I wanted. I never went back to their monthly meetings.

Why am I recounting this story now? Reading Why Journalists should use Twitter reminded me of that meeting.

I mentioned to a colleague of mine, who is a freelance journalist, that I’m researching an article about Twitter. “I hope you trash this service”, was his answer. “This is nothing else than verbal diarrhea.”

The early adopters are a fascinating bunch. These are the people active on Twitter, sign up for several product betas, try almost every product as time permits, read Technorati/Techmeme/ Reddit/ Digg,/eHub/ Slashdot and countless blogs. They remind me of the robot in the Short Circuit movie that keeps asking for “Input” and devours vast amounts of information.

These are great people to follow on Twitter, blogs and other forums. If you are start up, these are your little angels. They will tell you whether your product/service sucks, give you great suggestions for improvements, and if they like your product will tell everyone who may listen to them.

I still have not figured out what motivates early adopters. Is it because they have a high Curiosity Quotient? Or is it because they have a compulsion to make the world better? Or is it something else?

Engineers Don’t Start Like Business Folk

I am reading a series of blogs about HP Pheonomenon by Chuck House , thanks to a note sent by a friend, Bill (Mr. Human Glue) Daul of NextNow.

I paused when I came this line:

Engineers don’t start out thinking like, or looking like, business folk.

How true. There is a lot of difference between the companies started and run by Engineers vs Business People. Both seem to be successful in their own way. You need a combination of both to build a successful company. Marketing/Sales/Technology is a key combination. Having said that, look at companies built by engineers and business folk. There is a distinct difference in the culture.

This is an illuminating blog. It takes you back more than 50 years and tells the story of a great company. Chuck says that it is just a few front-end loaded with about 12 small items.

Here is a little snippet of the story on the first laser printer HP produced and the marketing.

We had a poll in marketing on how many we’d sell the first month. The forecast was 75. Actual sales were zero. We also sold zero in January and February. Finally in March, Dan Schwartz sold our first trade unit to AAMC in Washington D.C.

But read this. It will blow your mind.

After the failures, the Boise, Idaho management team had lost enthusiasm for this sector, reducing the development team to five engineers for the third try – which yielded a product called the HP 2686A, later retitled as the HP LaserJet. It was a stunning, and unexpected, success, turning into a product bigger by a factor of five than anything else in HP’s 90 division line-up.

Each post has a telling story. They fill you with wonder and some times make you think, “I know how that feels”. I just can’t wait for the book to appear. Meanwhile, I am going to keep track of this blog.

When You Solve Your Own Problem…

When you solve your own problem, you create a tool that you’re passionate about. And passion is key. Passion means you’ll truly use it and care about it. And that’s the best way to get others to feel passionate about it too.

This and other great ideas in a book called Getting Real. It is a book about smaller, faster, better ways to build web applications. Some great ideas about building software. Here is a list of my favorite ones.
Build Less
Less Features means you can get the product out earlier into the hands of the customers. You get to hear what they really like and what they would like. This can be invaluable.

Fund Yourself
You can focus on doing something good instead of spending time looking for money. Meebo did this and so did lot of others. In fact, this is the norm in many of the Web 2.0 startups.

It Shouldn’t be a Chore
I love this one. If the app does not get you excited, it is not worth building. It should be fun to build. You need to enjoy every bit of the process. And if you built it for your own use, make sure that the experience of using it is fun, as well.

Seek and Celebrate Small Victories
Build incrementally. With each increment, make it more useful.

Check out the following advice.

Hire Less and Hire Later
You Can’t Fake Enthusiasm
The Blank Slate
Context Over Consistency

Open Doors
Ride the Blog Wave
Promote Through Education

Feel The Pain