Who you should listen to when developing a product?
Hurray-you are a leader of a brand new startup, you already convinced investors that your product is awesome. Now you have to develop and sell, and you are good, right? Your friends are here to help, and you will do it like pros, right? No need for negative voices, right?
As a leader, the only thing you want to hear is compliments. But what you need to hear is constructive criticism, the people who believe you, but not unconditionally, they are not your friend but they want you to be successful, as their reputation depends on your success.
You should listen to everyone who wants to keep your business legal: your lawyer, your regulatory specialist. Yes, any nasty business can destroy their reputation, and no one wants to hire any professional with a shady history, and excuses are also not helping. So if they are letting you go, that is a huge red flag.
You should also listen to everyone who has more experience in your field, than you do. Sometimes I meet CEOs who say they never ask the potential customers for feedback, because they think customers know nothing about innovation. Facepalm. How do you want to develop a good product if you don't know what do you do? This attitude is only ok when you develop something for yourself! My favourite situation was when a company developed a device for greenhouses that already existed, but there are now better products on the market. You want to know what your customers feel, what makes their life/work easier. Real professionals don't wake up at 4 a.m. because they are mindful, but because they must! Standing in the middle of the night in the freezing cold with a bunch of candles is not the latest wellness trend, but farmers have to protect young trees from the cold, or their years of work will be destroyed within one hour. Mascne is not a Covid invention, healthcare workers know it for years. These people also learned to have their degree, but their job is way more demanding than yours, and what they need the least is a condescending idiot CEO, who says they are doing it wrong. Of course, you don't have to become a physician or an engineer to understand their problems. Just listen to them! Fun fact: I am also not a doctor, but I checked all the devices I worked with in action, yes I also attended to operations.
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I used to have a narrow view when forming partnerships. The process would like:
1. I need new partners for x project
2. Contact organizations to create y partnership for x project
3. X project over, y partnership over
There are many reasons why this does not work out:
o It misses out potential opportunities
o Does not take a consideration of the other partner's needs and future goals
o Poor response rate because of "I never cared about you before I needed something out of you" approach
o Focus on quantity instead of quality
If you really want to develop a partnership and see potential collaboration opportunities, do not reach out to a partner only when you NEED them. Approach them gently, and with a lot of care. Provide value and create a "social capital" - so that they feel obliged to support you once you need help as you did the same for them in the past.
Do not start a partnership from "what can you do for me?"
Instead, focus on "what can I do for you?"
It will take time, it is a long-term game and the benefits would often not be seen immediately. However, it is the way to build sustainable, valuable and impactful partnerships.
Building Ideas Tip #1
Don’t look for a solution without understanding the problem.
How big a problem are you trying to solve? How do you know it’s a problem for others? Who in particular needs this problem solved? Is it a problem people would pay to have solved for them?
If you cannot answer these questions honestly then you aren’t ready to start thinking of solutions.
This is always the hardest part for me - I come up with an idea I love - and am ready to throw myself into it - but I haven’t done the groundwork to validate if people really need what I’m offering.
Sometimes the desire to build something is so strong it can cloud your judgement and prevent you from starting in the right direction. And every step you take becomes exponentially more expensive to take back.
Don’t make this mistake - the more discipline your practice early on, the more leeway you’ll have later on.
Good product management is a balance between three bigger skill sets:
🔹Craft (methodologies, decision making, prioritization, routines)
🔹Communication (Company, Stakeholders, Team)
🔹Commercial awareness (Knowing problem area, understanding users and potential impact to overall business)
This simple framework can actually help to structure personal development and help managers to guide Product people towards faster growth.
ℹ️ In fact, this framework can be used for almost any position (be it engineer, salespeople, marketing, …) however requirements and actual skills in those sets would be different.