As a user, I love the products that are well designed, have cool features and usually solve my problems, but as a Product Manager, I really admire the innovative products that have been changing the way we think. The products that before they were, we used to think and behave in a certain way, and after their launch and adoption, we think or act differently.
Looking back at early days of modern technology, say 100-150 years ago, it is easy to imagine the type of products I am talking about. The first car, plane, phone or even computer, influencing and practically changing the way human mind thinks about travel, communication or data processing capabilities.
But in recent times, at first look, it seems less and less probable that a product will change the way we think ,as we tend to see ourselves as smart, progressive and with advanced digital literacy skills. "Ha ha" we think to ourselves, "what can they possibly invent now that will actually change the way we think or act?".
Well, there are not so many examples I could find, but here are few that amaze me every time I use these products and think about the transformation I experienced in their domains.
Navigation Applications (started with devices and now in our phones) really changed the way we think about traveling or getting from one place to another. Think about it... We are no longer thinking about "how do I get there?". It is not a big issue anymore. No more paper maps, no more preparing for a drive, no more asking people for directions. It doesn't matter if it is 5 minutes away or 5 hours away, just input your destination in your mobile, and let it take you there. It doesn't matter if you call this product Google Maps, Apple Maps or Waze, either way, our mind now thinks differently about the action of getting from one place to the other.
Another mind-blowing example is Amazon, influencing not just the shopping experience, but our state-of-mind about 'the way we can shop'. No more "I need to go to the store and get this". No more asking around "where is the best place to buy this thing?". From a light-bulb to a brand new TV, once we have the "Amazon Option" available to us, we somewhat stop thinking about shopping the way we did before that.
You can argue that Amazon didn't invent the online-shopping, and I would answer that they were the one that took it to the next-level and actually caused the mind-change affect I am talking about.
The iPod at 2001 (the device itself with its ecosystem, as iTunes) completely changed the way we purchase and listen to music and as a result, the way the Music Industry works. Can you remember the last time you purchased a CD? or listened to one while you jog?
The amazing adoption rate of these Product-originated mind-changes, compared to previous days and products, is also amazing. I would relate that to globalization and the change we've gone through as human-beings due to technology progress itself (I discussed that more in my post - Is this the beginning of the end of Communication through Applications?). In early days, it took many years for such a change. From the first phone invention till the point adoption was substantial and you can say that humans actually changed their perception about long-distance communication. In our days, this change is a matter of few years or even months!
What are the next mind-changing products? What kind of a change we can expect? In which domains? Can we say Airbnb will change the way we think about out-of-the-house-accommodation? and by that will change the industry itself? Will EatWith do the same for out-of-the-house-dining? Siri for human-machine interface?
Personally I still don't sense my mind has changed in these domains just yet, but time will tell.