Vital Elements of the Product Design Process
Ryan Singer sums it up nicely. Some points I particularly liked:
The reason I am making a product is to give people capability they lack. That’s why they pay for it. The gap between the person’s current situation and the situation they want to be in defines value for them. They hire your product to do a job. The job is their definition of progress from here to there.
Some people think patterns are formal things written in a book or collection, but they aren’t like that. They are natural and spontaneous just like spoken language. We learn a language by hearing it and speaking it. Words, phrases, and constructions come to mind as if by magic.
This works against you when your work isn’t goal-directed. R&D projects and exploratory design don’t benefit from narrow problem definition. Platform and infrastructure projects are different in kind from product projects because the platform is meant to enable products on top of it, which are themselves targeted at specific situations.