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Subject To Change: Creating Great Products & Services for an Uncertain World by Brandon Schauer, Todd Wilkens, Peter Merholz, David Verba

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Chapter 5. Stop Designing “Products”

What do people want to accomplish? How does this activity fit into their lives? How can I deliver on those desires? Asking these questions inevitably shifts your focus away from one-off, standalone products and allows you to start thinking of products simply as elements of a much larger system.

Magazines like BusinessWeek, Fast Company, and Forbes have all offered lengthy features on how companies such as Intel, Microsoft, and IDEO watch people in order to understand how to better deliver on unmet needs. What magazine articles rarely discuss is how to take advantage of these observations, or how they can actually guide the development of your offerings.

Remember the story that started this book, about George Eastman and the experience he wanted to deliver with the Kodak camera? If you look at his famous slogan, “You press the button, we do the rest,” you’ll see that Eastman marketed the camera based on the promise of a drastically simplified experience. But to achieve that result, Eastman needed to do more than merely design a simpler product—that would address only the “you press the button” half of the phrase.

The photographic process is necessarily complicated; it involves loading the camera, exposing light-sensitive material, removing that material, processing the material, and printing images from that material. In this context, just offering a simplified camera wouldn’t do enough to alleviate the many challenges of this process. Eastman’s ...

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