Choice Cultures

I came across this TED Talk in my tweet stream, The Art of Choosing. Thanks to whoever tweeted it. It stuck me as another one of those product manager moments. I posted a series of tweets that hinted at the importance of this concept to product  managers, that choice is different from one culture to another. It gets larger as I sit here, so on to the blog post.

I’ve talked about functional cultures in the past. I made up the term. I had not yet crossed paths with epistemological cultures. Eventually, I stumbled on to an academic journal on epistemological cultures. I felt vindicated. There is such a thing beyond my intuition and observations of same. I wasn’t making it up. Anyway, here is the list of related blog posts on functional cultures:

The short of it is that functional cultures are discipline specific. They are the culture of a group of people who work together, think similarly enough to generate a culture, and do their work as a cultural practice, a ritual. They are insiders and everyone else is an outsider. They are a subpopulation. They are an opportunity for late adoption phase customization. They are the remnants of a vertical market, or members of a later horizontal market. They are carried layer people unless we are talking the IT horizontal which is carrier focused. We focus on and start capturing the use cases and conceptual models of functional cultures in the bowling ally of one of our B2B early adopters. We forget them as we start building for the IT horizontal given that we are still to small to serve both. We forget them because it is the IT people that we consolidate across bowling allies going into the tornado. After we forget them, we can run ten years before focusing on functional cultures pays off again in the late phase of adoption.

While the speaker for the TED Talk focused on how more traditional notions of national culture drove the perception of choice, functional cultures present us with similar divides. The worst divide happens at the level of the programmer, because they are unconsciously encoding the mathematical, scientific, business way of choosing. No globalization, internationalization, or localization standards address choice orientation, or choice culture. We take our products global via distributors. We leave everything to the distributor. They market. We don’t. We capture a revenue stream, not a feedback stream. We don’t even realize our products lack of fit to a non-American mindset let alone come to recognize the subtitles of their choice culture. And, as product managers, we were raised on  prioritizing features, averaging populations, washing away differences–differences that matter to our differentiation, revenues, pricing partitions, fitness, growth of populations underlying market sizing–sizing the normal distribution that is the adoption lifecycle. Worse product managers prioritize before they go global.  Yes, we had to prioritize in the past, but recent developments in application architectures have eliminated the need to make tradeoffs.



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