Designing the opportunity

1. At the top of the product design process, you have the surface-level work of designing the interface — the visible manifestation of the design process in layouts, colors, styles, and interactions. Organizations that only focus on the top layer won’t succeed because the underlying structure, function, and features haven’t been considered thoughtfully and systematically.

2. More success comes when you dig to the middle layer — designing the experience. This means applying design thinking to understanding the problem, goals, and users, and then designing the right set of features and product architecture to meet those needs. There are plenty of products that do reasonably well by only addressing the top two layers.

3. But the products and companies that have true success, the ones we look to as revolutionary, are the companies that go one level deeper and apply design innovation. I think of this layer as designing the opportunity.

Designing the opportunity means understanding the system itself, the people who use it, and the external landscape in which that system exists. By comprehensively looking at all three of these factors, one can start to identify hidden opportunities and gaps.

Alexis Lloyd: Designing the opportunity: the deep layer of product design


OKR summary

OKRs are usually attributed to Google, but while reading this book, I realised that in fact, they originated here. Andy Grove developed Peter Drucker’s Management by objectives into OKRs, and then John Doerr learned them at Intel and took them to Google. Reading them here was the first time that they actually made sense to me rather than feeling cargo-culted.

Objectives are what you need to do; key results are how you know you are on your way. The example that really made it clear to me was: your objective is to reach the airport in an hour. Key results are: pass through town A at 10 mins, B at 20 mins, C at 30 mins. If after 30 mins there is no sign of town A, you know you’ve gone off track. So they need to be clear enough that you know you’ve met them, and that you are on track.

He points out that the system requires judgment and common sense. Objectives are not a legal document. If the manager mechanically relies on the OKRs for the review, or the report ignores an emerging opportunity because it wasn’t one of the objectives, “then both are behaving in a petty and unprofessional fashion”.

And finally, a very important point: you should not have too many! “To focus on everything is to focus on nothing”.

Anna Shipman in her book notes from High Output Management by Andy Grove