An avenue of ways

Firetrucks and product ownership

I walked past a fire station the other day and saw the magnificent red fire truck sitting out front. The fire truck was gleaming in the sun, its chrome ornaments smiling, ready for anything in the world. The perfectly folded hoses, coiled and waiting for action, knowing for certain they would not fail in time of need.

The firemen were out front hustling, busy testing everything, opening lockers and pulling tools out. Every tool is touched, chainsaws started and pneumatic pumps tested. The fireman’s motions exude care and passion, these tools must work under tense situations, any doubt or hiccup will cost precious seconds while life hangs in balance.

Like most people working on tools, I build a product that I don’t use every day. What if product teams could take a fireman’s approach to the tools we build for our customers? Practicing and using them with such fervor that using them became second nature? Obviously this is pretty easy for someone at Instagram or Facebook, but seems unnatural for the vast majority of other products.

We’ve tried some different incentives, from a small stipend to spend with merchants on our platform, to user experience reviews were engineers attempt different tasks. You might think, testing features prior to rolling out is close enough. However, feature testing is very specific to that part, sort of like checking a new gas tank cap on a chainsaw. Sometimes you build a whole new tool, but that happens infrequently. We’re going to experiment with a few other ideas and will report back on what we learn!