When I meet aspiring startup founders, I’m struck by how many of them quickly abandon their ideas and pivot to something totally different. Sometimes the pivot is relatively small, like a different type of product for the same persona they were already targeting. Other times the pivot is huge, like switching from B2B infrastructure to building a dating app. One founding team tried 15 startup ideas across diverse domains in 21 months.
For these nimble folks, it feels like their main goal is to found a successful company, any successful company. While they might have strong values for the type…
Accountants have ledgers. Scientists record their experiments. Marketers have CRMs. Engineers have code version history. Product builders, however, lack a sufficient source-of-truth for their past work. It’s a fundamental gap that holds back product management craft.
A SoT for product iterations consists of
A SoT for product iterations provides the data necessary for a variety of applications:
It’s a common practice for art students to critique each other’s work as a means to improve. To conduct a critique, one student shares their creation. Then, the artist’s peers describe, analyze, and interpret what they see and feel. The ensuing discussion covers the holistic impact of the work and the details of how it was constructed through the use of mediums, composition, forms, and colors.
The critique process benefits both the subject and the onlookers. The presenting artist digests the feedback to improve their craft. …
In How Adults Build Products, I explored a cognitive difference between adults and babies: adults have “endogenous attention” while babies only have “exogenous attention.” In other words, adults have the capacity to control their own attention. For babies, in contrast, their attention is directed by the external world.
Adults behave like babies in the workplace. Instead of staying focused on their true goals, grownup creators allow themselves to chase squirrels, build shiny objects, over-react to customer feedback, or succumb to political pressures. …
Ever since I first published the Product Management Triangle in 2014, people have asked for versions they can use for their own purposes.
I finally made this a lot easier! I updated the triangle and made it available as a Keynote template. Click here to download it. Edit the diagram however you want. I’d love to see what you do with it.
And here’s an expanded version that shows things that are both internal and external to your company.
Technology entrepreneurs like to say that they’re “making the world a better place” but they usually have little idea about what will happen if their creations are adopted or how it relates to a better world.
This phenomenon was mocked beautifully in one of my favorite sequences from HBO’s Silicon Valley. In that episode, startup founders make claims like these:
Babies are born with exogenous attention. This means that the external world dictates what they pay attention to. A baby could be playing with the best toy ever, but when another toy drops next to them, their attention uncontrollably shifts to the new shiny object. In The Philosophical Baby, Alison Gopnik says that babies can “become captivated by interesting things that they don’t care for, like an unusually bright light or loud noise. They cry and fuss but seem unable to look away, like adults watching a horror movie.”
Gopnik explains that as children grow older, they develop endogenous attention…
Extracting every ounce of learning from your actions is critical to solving hard problems. Every time you poke at the world is an opportunity to discover something new about the dynamics of a problem space.
Even for a small team, maximizing learning is hard. It requires discipline to routinely loop back to your previous endeavors to analyze what worked and what didn’t. It’s much easier to leave the past behind and blast forward to the next enticing plan.
For small teams, at least, it’s easier for contributors to remember the outcomes of their previous attempts and share insights. …
Innovation requires a combination of work and meta-work. By “work” I mean doing things that tangibly impact your product; designing, coding, marketing, etc.. “Meta-work,” in contrast, involves improving how you’re working. This often looks like meetings to synchronize the activities between teams or applying frameworks like OKRs or lean startup.
Over-emphasizing work, while neglecting meta-work, turns you into a feature factory where you’re producing in high quantity, but the stuff you’re making is of questionable value.
Conversely, spending too much time on meta-work often entails a day full of meetings and bureaucratic processes when no work is actually done. Large…