Don’t Be An 18th Century Product Manager

Even when you find genuinely good things to copy, there’s another pitfall to be avoided. Be careful to copy what makes them good, rather than their flaws. It’s easy to be drawn into imitating flaws, because they’re easier to see, and of course easier to copy too. For example, most painters in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries used brownish colors. They were imitating the great painters of the Renaissance, whose paintings by that time were brown with dirt. Those paintings have since been cleaned, revealing brilliant colors; their imitators are of course still brown.

Paul Graham

The lesson here for product managers is to make sure you understand the customer for that feature you are thinking of copying.  You never know when a feature that looks so bright and shinny from the outside is another product manager’s nightmare feature on the inside.

The competitor’s customers are probably different, their customer is probably different, and their long term strategy is probably different.  If you aren’t building something that is truly valuable to your customer, you could end up with a feature that flops…that stays “brown”.

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Elephant Question – How to Find Entrenched Problems

This is a great article on how to be a patient change agent:

  • People don’t like hearing that entrenched problems are “totally fixable” (none of us do — not just those “other” people).
  • To you, the fix is “common sense”, but to outsiders it may be counterintuitive.
  • By definition, a problem that remains entrenched is not “totally fixable” (without a change in context, actors, intent, etc.) On paper it may be fixable. In context, it is not.

At a minimum, ask someone:

Can you describe an elephant in the room that I will quickly encounter, will think is totally fixable, but will be wrong? Why is the status quo difficult to change?

Hacker Noon

Telling A User Story

Telling a great user story means building a heart connection between your customer and the team building your products.  Heart connection means building empathy.  Something that connects you with the emotion that the user is experiencing.  Helping the team understand the pain.  The team should feel the customer’s frustration or joy just a little bit.

You know you have a good user story when the developers keep talking about it.  When they come back the next day with different (usually better) ideas on how to solve the pain.

 

“How to Write Human User Stories” Presentation

This presentation will tell you all there is to know about human user stories:

  • Tools you will need – customer feedback, customer interviews, personas.
  • Grouping customers into segments
  • What humans care about – performance, usability, and accessibility.
  • How to write user stories for virtual reality, augmented reality, and machine learning.

I would be excited to give part or all of this presentation to your team or organization.  Check out the PowerPoint Presentation and feel free to send any questions or requests to public@jayfisher.info