Framing Product Development

Language helps us to frame problems and challenges.

George Lakoff introduced me to how language frames arguments in the political sphere.

Today I attended the DevJam simulcast of the Startup Lessons Learned conference. This global meetup was the brain child of Eric Ries. Eric coined the concept of Minimum Viable Product and is the cheerleader of the lean-startup movement.

Minimum Product

Now I have heard of

  • Minimum Viable Product;
  • Minimum Desirable Product; and
  • Minimum Feasible Product.

It seems all the Minimum Product ideas are hypothesis-driven approaches to product development. That is, with a product hypothesis, or hypotheses, one builds as much as needed to test the product hypotheses.

One of the take-aways I got from Startup Lessons Learned is there are several ways to linguistically frame software product development. Viable, Desirable, and Feasible are Framing words – they frame how we think of our product development.

Andrew Chen, a conference panelist, introduced me to Minimum Desirable Product. Minimum Desirable Product is the simplest experience necessary to prove a high-value, satisfying product experience.

Andrew adds Minimum Feasible Product to the mix, then distinguishes differences between Viable, Desirable, and Feasible.

Viable think business
Desirable think user experience
Feasible think engineering

Desirable hits my sweet spot.

Viable, while helpful, has a air of life support about it. Feasible, also helpful, has a hint of the analysis-paralysis syndrome.

Desirable Resonates

Desirable resonates because it implies an emotional reaction. Emotions spark viral movements. Startups, like viral movements, are predicated on reaching a Gladwellian Tipping Point.

The inventor’s challenge is to change minds & behavior.

In Switch, Chip and Dan Heath argue for appealing to The Elephants and The Riders. The emotional side of change is The Elephant. The rational side of change is The Rider. They say,

“The Elephant’s hunger for instant gratification is the opposite of the Rider’s strength, which is the ability to think long-term, to plan, to think beyond the moment.”

Our software products need desirability at their core. They must inspire and appeal to emotions – to satisfy The Elephants in us, but then, over time, they must also provide lasting value – to satisfy The Riders in us.

Start with the goal of desirable. Desirable gets us into the game.

Leader From Thin Air

He’s a born leader. I don’t buy it.

Leaders come from thin air. Leaders are people infected with an idea who make others jump the chasm of doubt and ridicule.

I’ve had some good ideas, but FAILED to lead them.

Here’s a reflection on progress and movements, and the role of leaders & followers.

Yin and Yang of Leadership

Progress lives or dies on the yin and yang of leader and follower. Today one leads, tomorrow one follows. Leadership is NOT permanent. Leadership is transient. Sometimes one is compelled to be an enthusiastic leader. Sometimes one is inspired to be an enthusiastic follower.

Leaders and followers have the same qualities. Number one is they both can recognize a good idea.

Leaders and followers are essential to progress. Without followers, there’s no movement. Without leaders, there are no ideas.

Leadership Defined

Leadership is the ability to bubble up, and publically champion, ideas that others feel compelled to follow.

Characteristic of a Leader

Leaders seem to be that slightly off-beat person bursting at the seams with enthusiasm about an idea that’s waaaay too good to ignore.

This idea is so good, I can’t seem to get any sleep over it.

Management & Leadership Distinction

Historically, managers control.  Leaders inspire.

Placing Management and Leadership on a Venn diagram, I’m not sure they’ve ever intersected in the communities I have inhabited. 

We are in a period where Command & Control Management is a rapidly metastasizing cancer. The prognosis is good because my notion is that a percentage of the attrition is being backfilled with Facilitators or re-purposed Managers.

The reason so many organizations hire consultants as coaches is that they’re trying to re-purpose the water-logged dead wood of command & control managers into wave-bobbing buoys (facilitators).

Facilitators create non-threatening conditions where a team of people are free to try slightly crazy things without fear.

Contemporary Challenges

  • The speed at which movements go viral
  • The din of new information makes it challenging for leaders to find a forum suitable for engaging others.
  • The realization and acceptance that one will never be a permanent leader.

To Lead a Good Idea

I have FAILED to lead my best ideas. Upon reflection, to lead the next good idea, I want to

  • Understand how ideas and movements “go viral” – then determine how it applies.
  • Be public about the idea knowing that enthusiasm must infect people.
  • Be courteous to naysayers, but not court them.
  • Attract, welcome, engage, and sustain Derek Sivers‘ concept of First Followers.
  • Convince First Followers that they make the idea live or die.
  • Find First Followers who can teach others.
  • Get to the equilibrium of co-ownership ASAP


These ideas are inspired by Derek Sivers‘ 3-minute TED talk Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy.

David Koontz emailed me a leadership philosophy questionnaire with questions like: Do you make a distinction between management and leadership? If so, what is it? David’s series of questions guided me in arranging my thoughts.

To be concise in my critique, Alan Cooper coached me to use the phase Command & Control Management, rather than the blanket term Management.