Product development tends to overlook the importance of conjecture. Lean startup and similar ‘lean’ movements create a culture of empiricism—only that which can be measured must be true. This might make sense for optimizing mature products, but a culture of empiricism leads to an incremental approach to building new products and, at best, leads to finding a local optima.
Conjecture in product development is the stuff of legend. The Steve Jobs kind of genius and vision comes down conjecture and criticism. Conjecture is the leaps and bounds and criticism corrects errors over time. Both are essential for developing great products.
- Trying to know the unknowable leads to pessimism (anecdotally, practitioners of lean startup tend to be very pessimistic)
- Godel Incompleteness For Startups shows that conjecture is what leads to G-statements (unknowable yet true, also known as ‘big if true’)
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Companies don’t really want frontend engineers or backend engineers or infrastructure engineers. If you work at an engineering as product organization, they want good product engineers solving user problems. As an industry, this is poorly understood and little is written to help people understand the principles of good product engineering.
One of the keys to building great products is to regularly make contact with reality. Ideas rarely survive first contact with users—what we think is good might be completely useless to an actual potential customer. Regular contact with reality insulates you from the illusion of explanatory depth.