Do We Need More Product Frameworks?
(I'm writing this knowing full well I perpetuate some of these problems. I'm not happy about it. I can do better. I slipped into writing a lot about the North Star Framework, and I can do a better job writing about all the prior work).
Very few frameworks are completely new. They may be new to the creator, use new words, and have a unique spin. But there's a good chance most of the ideas exist elsewhere.
That's not a bad thing unless there's conscious plagiarism. New takes on old ideas can be super powerful. So can combining disparate ideas in interesting ways, along with a bit of self-imposed naiveté and "learn for myself". If everyone threw up their hands and said "nothing is new, let's only use existing techniques" there would be no innovation.
In fact, some of the most impactful things are novel ways of communicating old ideas.
I was chatting with a friend who recently published a post introducing a new framework. 90% of the ideas were not new. I know this because I spend way too much time research frameworks.
I asked what inspired the post.
I couldn't find anything that solved my exact problem. I didn't look super hard, but after a quick search, nothing was a good fit. So I pulled a framework together. It was easier to do that. And I figured other people might benefit from it. It has had ten-thousand of views.
The presentation was new, and a lot more modern sounding than the pre-existing ideas. It was persuasive. I didn't blame my friend for plagiarizing (it was unintentional). New frameworks appear daily because someone "couldn't find anything for their situation".
Others frameworks and ideas emerge from inside specific companies. They solve a problem in context, and gain traction when someone writes a book or post. The ideas spread quickly when the company is well known like Spotify, Google, or Amazon. Still other frameworks emerge for teaching purposes. The goal is making emergent practices more accessible and learnable.
All this is to say that 1) almost nothing is completely new, 2) this is OK, but 3) there are challenges like...
Teams often think that adopting X—where X is a popular, interesting, yet ultimately derivative framework—is the goal. They miss the hundreds of worthwhile variations of X. They miss the context underpinning X. They miss the history underpinning X.
Teams confuse "mastering a framework" for skill.
Teams mistake teaching frameworks for actual time-tested, contextually appropriate frameworks. Remember, all frameworks have a goal. The goal is teaching, not operationalization.
Originators of ideas without a platform, a following, or Silicon Valley company cred are completely erased. Not good.
The next time your team sets about adopting X, really make a point of digging into the history a bit. Ask "what problem does this solve?" Ask "what other approaches might help here?" Ask "what are the limits, and was the context surrounding this framework?"
If you write about frameworks, or occasionally invent (reinvent) a framework, make a point of doing the same.
Do we need more product frameworks?
It doesn’t matter. There’s no stopping people inventing new ones.
But we can become more discerning and intentional.