One topic I’ve never written explicitly about is the need for product passion. I’ve referenced it at the top of the list of traits for good product leaders, but it’s easy to take this for granted especially since the people I surround myself with professionally are generally very passionate about products.
Good product teams must be good at product discovery, which means they must get good at learning quickly. They need to be able to zero in on the appropriate target customer, identify the key problems to solve for those customers, and typically the most difficult part of all, apply technology and user experience design to come up with good solutions that will solve those problems.
There are several skills and activities that are important when coming up with great products. In my last article, I argued for the absolute necessity of having good data about how our products are actually being used.
I know this topic is going to sound far-fetched to many of you, but I am finding too many product teams out there that either aren’t instrumenting their product or site to collect analytics, or they do it at such a minor level that they really don’t know what users are doing on their site or how their product is being used.
For many years now I have recommended the classic book “The Innovator’s Dilemma” because I think it does such a good job explaining an important dynamic I see at larger companies. However, I have come to believe that The Innovator’s Dilemma is actually describing the symptom of the problem, and not the actual cause.
Recently a friend of mine sent me a link to this short video from totally outside of the technology field. The video is called “Why You Need to Fail” and it’s by Derek Sivers. Even though the examples are from very different domains, I thought that this short video very eloquently made one of the most important points in creating great products, and I strongly encourage all of you to watch it (especially the second half).
In my last article I discussed the role of the leader of the product organization. I heard back from more than a few product leaders that it served to remind them that they weren’t doing as much as they knew they should be doing to build the strength of their product team, and I was asked if I could share some of the tools I use to help with this.
If you take a look at the list of open product positions at the end of my recent newsletter, you’ll notice a record number of VP/Director of Product positions. In part this reflects the growth we are experiencing in our industry. However, it also represents an increased recognition of the importance of strong product leadership.
Back when I was a product manager for Microsoft Office
, we spent hundreds of thousands on positioning research. Messaging lived for years on store shelves, so getting it “right” was important. We thought about every word and enforced consistency, summarily dismissing changes from well-intentioned copywriters.
In my last article I discussed the keys to product optimization including A/B testing. However, I emphasized that this type of A/B testing is not the same as the A/B testing we do during product discovery. In this article I’d like to talk more about how we utilize live-data prototypes and A/B testing to facilitate product discovery.