Reading for Product Managers: Works by the Architect Christopher Alexander

I strongly recommend reading this series of books by the architect Christopher Alexander:

  1. The Timeless Way of Building
  2. A Pattern Language
  3. The Oregon Experiment

While these books were written before the discipline of product management  existed, they get to the essence of how to build things that will be inhabited by groups of humans — a fundamental mission of the product manager. An excerpt from The Timeless Way of Building:

There is one timeless way of building. It is a thousand years old, and the same today as it has ever been. The great traditional buildings of the past, the villages and tents and temples in which man feels at home, have always been made by people who were very close to the center of this way. It is not possible to make great buildings, or great towns, beautiful places, places where you feel yourself, places where you feel alive, except by following this way.

While Alexander explains this “way of building” in the context of architecting (e.g.) city layouts, universities, neighborhoods, transportation systems, and houses, it seems that his philosophy translates beautifully to planning and evolving digital ecosystems. It includes concepts of iterative design, community driven design, and developing a library of patterns that can be applied uniquely to particular contexts. 

From reading Alexander’s books, you will learn why some digital experiences feel alive while others feel out of step.

This post appeared originally on Quora.

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