Wednesday, December 22, 2021



In his influential article, "Selling pickaxes during a gold rush", entrepreneur and investor Chris Dixon brings forward a powerful analogy. California Gold Rush began in 1848, when gold was found in Coloma, California. The news of gold brought approximately 300,000 people to the state from the rest of the United States and abroad. During the gold rush, some of the most successful business people such as Levi Strauss and Samuel Brannan didn’t mine for gold themselves but instead sold supplies to miners – wheelbarrows, tents, jeans, pickaxes etc. Mining for gold was the more glamorous path but actually turned out, in aggregate, to be a worse return on capital and labor than selling supplies.

On a slightly different but related tangent, I was reading the book "The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results", the authors narrate a story about Steve Jobs' ability to stay ahead of trends and shares-
"No one knew how to go small better than Steve Jobs. He was famously as proud of the products he didn't pursue as he was of the transformative products Apple created. In the two years after his return in 1999, he took the company from 350 products to ten. That's 340 no.s, not counting anything else during that period.”

Both these stories represents different aspects of Product Thinking or Product Sense as it is sometimes referred as. In case of Levi Strauss, it was about applying a second order thinking and finding gaps and needs in an non-obvious manner. Steve Jobs' case was more of finding the product direction by subtraction.

What really is Product Thinking ? and Can it be honed as a skill ?
Julie Zhuo states in this popular Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) blog on the subject-
"The simplest way to define product thinking is that it is the skill of knowing what makes a product useful — and loved — by people. As with all skills, it can be nurtured and developed; it’s not just an instinct one does or doesn’t have (and even instincts are trained, after all)."

Would highly recommend reading the blog. Catch the summary in my sketchnote.

What are some of the ways you use to hone the product thinking ?

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