I nearly scrapped this column, because they’re not bad ideas per se. Both are still in fashion today, especially in the startup-o-sphere, and like many popular ideas there's more than a grain of truth to them. But these two ideas have run themselves ragged, and I see them doing more harm than good when I encounter them.
The ability to interpret what the market is telling you, spot new opportunities and then capitalize on them is what makes any business successful. Software people can and do learn much by studying the design of everyday things (to borrow the title of another wonderful book). The reverse is also true.
The challenges you’ll find in any organization come in two flavors:
Type 1 Challenges often sound like restatements of the organization’s overall mission, and employees will openly acknowledge them often. For example, a software company trying to build a better web browser may cite technology barriers as a major challenge. These are obvious, and you may be working on some of these challenges as part of your core responsibilities. Don’t stop digging here.
Type 2 Challenges are the real deal, and you won’t hear about them during the interview process. A Type 2 Challenge for the software company above might be, “We have zero brand recognition and don’t know how to market our products.” That’s a much scarier problem for the future of the business than some technological hurdle. These are the kinds of things you need to be on the lookout for...