“We Don’t Sell Saddles Here”

I just re-read Slack (and Flickr) founder Stewart Butterfield’s essay from two years ago (right before Slack launched), and man, it eats like a meal. If you care at all about product development, you should read the whole thing. I jotted down a few of my favorite observations & am sharing them here:

  • [O]ur job is also to understand what people think they want and then translate the value of Slack into their terms. … [This] something we all work on. It is the sum of the exercise of all our crafts.
  • We should be working carefully from both the product end and the market end: Doing a better and better job of providing what people want (whether they know it or not); Communicating the above more and more effectively.
  • We are setting out to define a new market. And that means we can’t limit ourselves to tweaking the product; we need to tweak the market too.
  • Innovation is the sum of change across the whole system, not a thing which causes a change in how people behave.
  • What we’re selling is organizational transformation. The software just happens to be the part we’re able to build & ship.
  • We will be successful to the extent that we create better teams.
  • The best possible way to find product-market fit is to define your own market.
  • Who Do We Want Our Customers to Become?… We want them to become relaxed, productive workers… masters of their own information and not slaves… who communicate purposively.
  • Be harsh, in the interest of being excellent. [Or as I’ve always put it, “I swear because I care.” —J.]

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