A great product is a function of identifying a worthwhile problem and meaningfully solving that problem.

Michael Seibel, CEO and Partner at Y Combinator, shared the lessons he’s learned from seeing thousands of startups over the last decade on the Investor Field Guide podcast a few months ago. In the episode (23:00–28:00), Seibel discussed the questions he encourages founders to think of when considering a problem area to focus on. This guide can serve to gauge how significant a problem is for a given user base to ultimately determine where you should focus your efforts.

  1. Frequency — how often does your customer experience this problem? …


Build your next product by working backwards.

Working backwards
Working backwards
Photo by Monty Allen on Unsplash

Working Backwards is an approach to product development made popular by Amazon. This process can be applied for any new product, service, or feature. Putting this idea into practice requires starting with the customer, think big, and focus on the riskiest assumption upfront.

Start with the customer

Working backward always starts with the customer and thinking through the benefits you can provide them. Be default, customers are not likely to care about a new product or solution. You should be able to clearly and simply articulate the compelling value that customers will receive and why they should try this new solution. …


Focus on the things that don’t change

Human needs and wants are relatively stable over time. What changes much more frequently are the means by which people seek to satisfy those needs.

While much of product innovation is focused on things that are changing and trending in the world, we can actually build durable product strategies by focusing on the things that are not changing. Those customer desires that are stable and long-lasting, as those efforts will compound and are more likely to stand the test of time.

Jeff Bezo’s sums up this philosophy at the 2012 re:Invent conference:

“You can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. … [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. …


One of the product articles I reference often is the Guide to Product Planning: Three Feature Buckets written by Adam Nash. I love this article for the simple framework to think about building your product roadmap by focusing on elements of moving key metrics, building customer requests, and inspiring delight.

In a similar vein, I contend that any product feature can be tied to one of three goals. These goals can sometimes overlap, but more often a feature is optimized to improve a single one of these goals.

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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Get more people to use it

These are features that you believe will drive product growth — acquiring new users or helping existing users get onboarded and become activated. …


Marty Cagan talks about Insights as a critical input into crafting a product strategy. Insights can come in a variety of forms, however, it takes real work to identify them and translate these into action. Moreover, insights are often unique to each product, company, or industry. Below I will share the methods and channels for generating these product and customer insights.

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Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

Talk to users

Talk to the people currently using (or not using) your product. …


The easiest way to make something better is to find something that “sucks” and work on it until it doesn’t. Hidden among the “suck” is an opportunity to make an impact by building trust within your teams and solving real problems.

Is there some task that the team doesn’t like doing but needs to get done? → Help them automate it or volunteer to do it for them

Is there a customer angry with support about a bug? → Pick up the phone and talk it through with them

Is there some element of your customer’s job that they don’t like doing? → Figure out a solution to help them 1) do it faster or 2) even better — not have to do it at all

Is your boss stressed out about something at work? → Offer to take on some of their work. You might even get promoted :)

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Ideas and mental models for product managers

1. Start with Why

“People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.” Simon Sinek’s leadership lessons provide a great model for leaders and product managers to communicate and inspire. While most leaders start with the What — the product or solution — Sinek advocates for starting with Why — your purpose for existing and the How — your principles and values that guide your actions.

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The Golden Circle — Start With Why

2. Pareto principle

Also known as the 80/20 rule, this is the idea the majority of results come from a minority of causes. …


When was the last time you had an idea you were 100% certain would be a success?

Was it actually successful?

If you build products for a living you likely know that scenario above rarely happens. The reality of product management is that most of the ideas we generate fail. There are a host of reasons why failure is the most common outcome that I won’t get into now, but the crux of the matter is that developing something new involves a high degree of uncertainty.

This is where the idea of a bet comes into play. According to author Annie Duke in Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts, “a bet is a decision about an uncertain future”. By that definition, any decision about what you or your team should build next is a bet. …


User delight is defined by the Nielsen Group as “any positive emotional affect that a user may have when interacting with a device or interface.”

Delight is the last, sometimes unattainable, frontier of product development. This is reflected in Aarron Walter’s ‘Hierarchy of User Needs’. As product managers, we likely spend the bulk of our time focusing on the base of the pyramid, and rightfully so. But achieving the status of a ‘pleasurable’ can often be the key differentiation between good and great products and companies.

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I want to break down a few ways in which I’ve seen products introduce delight to the user’s experience. …


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photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

When I transitioned into product management I was nervous and unsure. Although I had experience working with Agile software teams I lacked any formal technical background and had never managed a backlog or run a planning meeting.

My lack of confidence in my own decision making was so obvious that it was echoed almost unanimously in the peer feedback I received three months into the role. Getting told you need more confidence does not exactly build one’s confidence.

Now that I’m more established in the role and have switched to a new company I’ve had a chance to reflect on how I was able to get over this hurdle and build my confidence in my approach to building products. …

About

Alex Pedicini

Product Manager. www.alexpedicini.com

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