Product Thinking vs Project Thinking

A primer from Shreyas Doshi

How is it that we all say we want the same thing i.e. to create tremendous value for our customers, to grow the company’s business and its positive impact, and yet we end up with such conflicting versions of “truth” in the throes of the inherent complexity of our work?

At least part of the answer lies in the observation that we are often speaking to each other in different languages, but are unaware of it. We litigate the minutiae of a decision, without recognizing that one of us is engaged in Product thinking & the other in Project thinking.

Shreyas Doshi

Project Thinking:
Project Thinking is about understanding expectations, formulating plans, marshaling resources, and coordinating actions to meet those expectations.
Product Thinking:
Product Thinking is about understanding motivations, conceiving solutions, simulating their effects, and picking a path based on the effects you want to create.

Shreyas Doshi
Product Thinking vs Project Thinking


The Ethics of Manipulinks

In these worst-case scenarios, the problem seems to be exactly as Baron describes, as the users are not treated as rational beings with the ability to make informed choices but instead as fodder for increased metrics, whether that be increased sales, clicks, loyalty program signups, or otherwise. We can contrast this with a more ethical model that places the user’s needs and autonomy first and then constructs a platform that will best serve those needs. Instead of tricking or pressuring the user to increase brand metrics, designers will try to meet user needs first, which if done well, will naturally drive engagement.

What is interesting about this user-first approach is that it does not necessarily reduce to considerations of autonomy.

The Ethics of Manipulinks

Agile is Dead, long live agility

  • Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools.
  • Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation.
  • Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation.
  • Responding to Change over Following a Plan.