Episode 29
Guest: Daniel Merriman

Sociologists and Product Managers

Oct 13 / Petra Färm
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Sociologists and Product Managers
Sociology is a liberating perspective. At least according to David Newman who claimed that in his book “Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life” and Daniel Merriman, the sociologist turned product manager.

When you read up on Sociology and try to understand how the social processes work and how social change occurs what strikes the hardest is the impact our products might have on society and how little we as product managers consider that. There is something rotten at the heart of customer experience, which is the experience all our non-customers have of the product.

There are many examples of products that are changing how we interact in a city or in social contexts at large. Some are obvious, like the scooters littering the sidewalks and bicycle lanes. For the customers they are brilliant, enabling them to get from A to B without grabbing a taxi, boarding a crowed subway, or run (if they are late). But for many others they are a hazard, they limit the movability in the City, they pollute when they are thrown in to lakes or dumped in parks. They have an extremely short life length simply because the customers are not behaving as expected.

This is a tangible example, one that is discussed. But how about something less obvious, like the digitalization of cities that are happening at lightning speed. Facebook groups planning and syncing neighborhood watch groups, train timetables and tickets, booking a slot at the gym, podcasts, the list goes on. Everything is one-click away, but if you don't have internet access are you really part of the society?

Next time you are doing a strategic update for your product, think about the non-users, the impact on society, the legacy. Bring in the Sociology perspective for a better world. And if you find it liberating, please let me know.