I'm passionate about Food as much as I am about my Products.
In many ways I see them serve the same purpose. We can consume food for survival only or we can eat it for pleasure as well. A Product can fulfill a certain task or it can do much more than that, making you 'feel' things about it.
At work I design my Products and at home I cook my food. With time and by experience I found out the two of them actually share similar ideas.
The Whole Should be Greater than the Sum of its Parts
Cooking is all about creating something new and exciting from multiple ingredients.
A great Pasta Red-Sauce is not just tomatoes and garlic cooked together. It contains the knowledge of tasteful combinations, the understanding of textures in the eating experience, the essence of red-sauce to pasta and what is all about actually. If it was that easy, everyone were 3 Michelin starts chefs…
The same goes for Products. A successful, meaningful product is more than a bunch of features launched by a desktop icon or through a URL. They have to sync with the ecosystem they are placed in, and to be tied together correctly with business-logic that makes sense to the users and help them achieve their goals.
It is actually the ‘secret sauce’ factor (which can be simplicity, speed, innovative UI or any other) that will make the product successful and adopted.
Timing is Everything
In cooking, timing is everything. The timing of adding ingredients into the mix or the timing of serving the dishes to the diners. The chef gives the dish its character and to the kitchen its efficiency, by controlling the clock - Baster of Tick-Tock.
Product Managers control the clock in their domain. As a big fan of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach the timing of product releases is key. Countless products and startups are 6 feet under because someone beet them with a product, and quite a few have the words "premature" carved on their tombstone.
Use Best Ingredients
Even the most talented chefs with all the magic and experience in their hands, cannot make a superior dish from low-quality ingredients. A decent dish? maybe...
When chefs plan their restaurants or catering business they plan it to last and to scale, and for that they need something more than just 'decent'.
Ingredients are a key element in food as electrical or mechanical parts are for a machine or code is for Software.
Building blocks are not something for compromise.
Food is immortal! No doubt about it. Today we eat and appreciate meat on the grill like cavemen ate their meat on their bonfire, and we also eat the exact same dishes people in the middle-ages were eating.
Nevertheless, innovation and progress is something that is always happening in the culinary world. Foods and styles are traveling between kitchens, human taste is changing due to globalization, and chefs are constantly changing their menus in search for the next best thing.
Why is that? Because like software, if you don't innovate you simply left behind. A superior Product or company at one point in time, can be a museum piece in the next (someone said BlackBerry RIM or MySpace?).
Sometimes all it takes is a small change that makes a big difference. Changing just the type of lettuce you put in your salad if you will...
So choose your ingredients wisely, add that 'secret sauce' to the mix, innovate and constantly watch your clock.
Do it when you cook your dinner tonight or when you write your user-stories tomorrow.