The product doesn’t get to kick ass until the user kicks ass, first.

[More thoughts from the #hughbook etc.]

I remem­ber the day, back in the early 1990s, when I first came across the great busi­ness wri­ter, Tom Peters. Most TV shows are for­got­ten within hours of watching, but this one still stays with me, over two deca­des later.

Tom was doing a PBS pro­gram on the Mit­tels­tand, those ama­zingly plucky, medium-sized Ger­man com­pa­nies that somehow manage to com­pete suc­cess­fully on a glo­bal level, in spite of their rela­ti­vely small size.

Tom was inter­vie­wing Horst Brandstät­ter, the owner and CEO of Play­mo­bil, the famous Ger­man toy company.

And this is the part I REALLY remem­ber– to paraphrase:

TOM: Hmmm… These Play­mo­bil toys of yours… they do ama­zingly well, all over the world. So what’s their sec­ret? What do they do that’s so interesting?

HORST: It’s not what the toy does that’s inte­res­ting. It’s what the child does with the toy that’s interesting.

BOOM! A moment of cla­rity. One that sticks with me, like I said, twenty five years later.

What Horst said is true, whether you’re run­ning a small mom n’ pop cheese empo­rium in Green­wich Village, or a mul­ti­bi­llion titan like Intel or General Motors: To borrow hea­vily from Kathy Sie­rra, the pro­duct doesn’t get to be kick-ass until the user kicks ass first.

Don’t talk about your­self. Talk about something else. Aim for something higher. Talk about the user. Remem­ber Play­mo­bil. Never for­get the child pla­ying with it.

Thanks, Tom…