Inspired: How to create products customers love

Inspired bookThis 2008 book by product manager Marty Cagan describes the dream way to create and run products. Everything he says feels like common sense but you know why they never happen in real life. I’d love to be able to work on a product in the way he describes.

You can only get this book on Kindle in the UK. A lot of it can be read in blog form on

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The Secret Life of Buildings

Royal Festival Hall stairway by Julie Kertesz (from Flickr)

This was a three part Channel 4 series presented by the architecture critic Tom Dyckhoff. One of Tom’s main arguments is today’s architects are working to style or business needs and not designing for the people who use the building.

It turns out the ‘Gherkin’ which visually dominates the London skyline has boring offices inside because tenants wanted a cheaply adaptable space which they have filled with strips of desks. Wembley Stadium has been built around corporate entertaining rather than maximising the enjoyment of fans. Modern galleries are all about the statement building rather than bringing visitors together. (This is called ‘The Bilbao Effect’ where the Guggenheim Museum brings in the tourists for its design and not the exhibits within.)

Tom praises the Royal Festival Hall and its spaces for everyone (and anyone) to come together and use all day for free. It was built for the people without commercial pressure.

This reminds me of the old cinemas which were boring brick buildings on the outside and palaces of enjoyment on the inside. Compared with the multiplexes of today, which draw you in with bright lights but lack soul inside.

Please can we start thinking about the people who will be using the buildings again?

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The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother

The Big Bang Theory

Since the end of Friends there’s not been an American sitcom which has taken off in a big way in the UK. We still enthuse about one hour American shows be them comedy or drama but the traditional sitcom has been sidelined. It’s not an American problem, there’s not much going on in the UK space. With the exception of The IT Crowd there isn’t really a ‘filmed in front a studio audience’ show making any waves.

But the American’s still love them – just look at the fuss over ‘Two and Half Men’. The only ones drawing a big (and by that I mean around 1m viewers) audience are E4’s ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and ‘How I Met Your Mother’. And I rather enjoy them.

‘How I Met…’ is the closest to the Friends formula with a group of everyday friends going through their 20s and 30s, working and dating. ‘Big Bang…’ is brilliantly observed geek comedy of a group of eccentric friends in their 20s and 30s, working and dating. What makes them work is the writing (and there’s been much said elsewhere about the American style of writing) and their strong ensemble cast. You’ll recognise at least half of each cast from many other shows.

I’d love to see more great comedy performed by great people in front of that studio audience. Surely it must be time for a revival of the genre in the UK.