What Is It About?
Elsawy Yehia’s book, Product People, has two subtitles: “a journal of laughter and tears” and “a post-structuralist effort to understand ourselves.” Neither captures the delightful nature of the book.
In essence, it is a collection of bite-size reflections on many topics the author is familiar with – product management, design, leadership and corporate culture. Occupying less than a hundred pages, those reflections include common senses, quotable rants and aphoristic wisdoms.
Their point, though, is not that they are right or even useful, but that they make you think whether you agree with them or not.
That’s where this book shines – it gives you a hundred pages of highly quotable thoughts worth thinking about.
Why Read It?
The book is not organized according to the topics it covers, but according to the format or tone of the thought, starting from lists (thoughts that are better expressed in bullet points), contrast (how or why one thing is preferred to another), narratives (slightly bigger nuggets of thoughts), satirical dictionary (not unlike The Devil’s Dictionary), all the way to requests (“Can we please…?” questions), contempt (which includes, according to the author, “endeavors to express disdain”), Cautions (“actions that create bad outcomes”) and a mixed bag of miscellany (additional thoughts that don’t quite fit in all previous sections).
This is exactly the kind of books you can take with you and read whenever you have even just one minute to spare.
Different readers may find different bits and pieces resonant. A manager might chokes at “The Antilearning Executive” list. A design practitioner may giggles reading “You Know You Are a Designer When…” (albeit far less glamorous than How to Live with a Designer Without Killing Them and nowhere near the level of humour and sarcasm you easily find in Very British Problems). A leader might get inspired or worried by “Team Destruction Recipe” or “Conscienceless Organizations.” And any reader may find nice memes to poke fun at the status of the a familiar world – companies who sell products and provide services to everyone.
Pros and Cons
- Concise, good for bite-size reading;
- Funny, quotable and meme-worthy reflections;
- Personal flashes of knowledge, experience and wisdom (similar to Designerly Ways of Knowing: A Working Inventory of Things a Designer Should Know in that very sense).
- Misleading title and subtitles;
- Many fascinating points are underdeveloped;
- Could be organized better.
Elsawy Yehia’s Product People is a a very personal collection of thoughts that take on the ills and redemptions in product, design, culture and leadership. The author is a recognized leader in the topics he covers, and his thoughts shine through the book.
Noah’s Rating: 5/5 Stars
In other words, I’d rather you read it than not, less because the author is my friend than because you’d likely find it funny, inspiring or even helpful.
Disclaimer: The author of the book reviewed here, Elsawy Yehia, is my friend and former colleague. I can’t pretend that I don’t have my own bias in reviewing his book, while my previous work experience in the publishing industry as an editor surely helps me comment on the merit of the book itself rather than on that of the author. Make your own judgement.