Why product metaphor?

Wronged by Excel.

Once, the finance director called me and asked me to train her analysts and accountants in advanced Excel functions. I talked to the chief analyst and accountant, who detailed the request. They had a problem with the order fulfillment spreadsheets the suppliers reported to us weekly. The report format was unclear, and there were no controls, so analysts got garbage at their input. And they wanted Excel to find incorrect data, change it to the proper format, make a list of corrections the provider needed to fix, and send him an e-mail with these proposed corrections. ‘You got it all wrong,’ — I said to them. ‘The first thing you need to do is figure out what report format you want, and for that, you need to define what records structure you need to do your job. Now you don’t have either. Anything you would do with Excel checks and workflows will be useless.’ But I couldn’t deliver my message; they wanted Excel training for advanced users to fix the wrong problem.

A cart or a car?

Another time we were doing an online store logistics optimization project. We have had two potential bottlenecks — one in the last-mile delivery and the other in the fulfillment center. I was responsible mainly for the latter. We implemented all our ideas, but it was not enough; we still required at least a 20% improvement in the number of orders shipped during the day. But we ran out of ideas and had to get out of the box. During one of the meetings late in the night, when we were going through the warehouse concept model, I questioned the basis of it, the warehouse metaphor.

Product metaphor market fit.

Another story I already wrote is the one about Reed. He saw the ship as a formula, the final metaphor, the most abstract one possible to imagine. Others didn’t see it and their products failed terribly.


Lerner, M., 2019. Finding Language/Market Fit: How to Make Customers Feel Like You’ve Read Their Minds. URL https://review.firstround.com/finding-language-market-fit-how-to-make-customers-feel-like-youve-read-their-minds (accessed 4.17.22).



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