What is a Feature Factory? It’s a phrase coined by product management consultant John Cutler in response to a software developer friend’s complaint that he was “just sitting in the factory, cranking out features and sending them down the line.”
His barometer for whether you’re working in a “Feature Factory” hinges on whether the impact of your work is measured (or even discussed), and iterated on accordingly. Basically, if all you’re doing is spinning out features, and taking far too little time to consider whether they’re solving core problems for your audience and measure their success or failure, you might be a ‘factory’ worker.
Hopefully you aren’t – and hopefully your competitors are, because the “Factory” system is easy to beat when you take a Design Thinking approach. Remember: Even though they produce a lot of features, Feature Factories aren’t serving their customers well.
This oversight can give you the competitive edge.
“Your product is designed to solve a problem. If you’re adding a feature that doesn’t contribute to the solution, you may be wasting your time and worsening your product in the process.” – Kissmetrics, Why More Features Doesn’t Mean More Success
How to Beat the Feature Factory With Design Thinking
Though methods of putting Design Thinking into practice differ – it’s a creative process, after all – a few central tenets remain true. It’s all about empathy, diversity, and cross-functional collaboration. Fundamentally, it’s a human-centered approach to design, as opposed to a technological/scientific/feature-forward approach.
That means, the ideation process begins by thinking of the humans you’re working to serve.
And that requires a great deal of empathy.