Products Aren't Valuable; Only Results Are

Imagine you're making pancakes. Getting from "no pancakes" to "has pancakes" requires a whole bunch of different objects, skills, and spaces. You know that pancake mix doesn't equal pancakes.  Crafting the "perfect" product is like crafting a gourmet pancake mix, ultimately judged not by the it's inherent quality but by how well it turns into pancakes.

The pancake mix example is a cornerstone example in Value Paths.The users of the pancake mix don't get value from the pancake mix inherently. The characteristics of the pancake mix that make it valuable are only assessed within the context of how well it turns into pancakes in the end, if that's what you're using the pancake mix for.The idea being that the pancake mix company's expertise doesn't need to be in creating the world's best pancake mix or the platonic ideal of all of the qualities that make the best pancake mix. What they really want to do is make a process of arriving at pancakes as straightforward as possible and provide the user with the expertise and resources that they need to be able to pull that sequence of changes off.In software terms, you want to sync up your product states with user states and you want to recognize what kind of situation they're in and be able to anticipate what kind of situation they're trying to recruit your expertise into helping them attain and align your experience around helping them do that.In the same way that you would look at your conversion funnel and say, "Well, we're getting this many signups that turn into this many trials, that convert into this many new customers, and we retain them for X long or whatever."You can think of it in the same way but think of it from the user's perspective, where if you're the pancake mix company, how many people are we losing at the step where you make the batter? How many people are we losing at the step where you pour the batter onto the griddle? How many people are we losing at the step where you flip the pancake? So on and so forth. And you want to see that all the way through so that you can diagnose the "conversion funnel" of the user's pursued outcome that is driving the relevance of this entire engagement.The relevance and value of the product is only relevant within the context of the outcome that the user is trying to pursue in a given session or with their relationship with the product overall. And that if you assume that the product is the value, you're always wrong because value is determined by the beneficiary — you can't build five new product features and decide that the product is now five times more valuable.

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