Thinking Product | A stake in the ground

I am a sucker for great technology product experiences. I also love writing – there is no other practice that teaches me to synthesize what I learn as effectively.

But, I’ve not spent enough time on the intersection of the two.

I’ve written about great product experiences every once a while here That’s part and parcel of working on side projects for over a decade. But, I’d like to do a lot more. So, my hope is to write about building technology product experiences once a week – my stake in the ground.

I thought I’d call this series “Thinking Product” as so much of building products is about the thought process – both of the user and the builder. As a result, I’m going to also write about both aspects of technology product experience – products (i.e. User focused) and product leadership (i.e. Builder focused).

And, in scientific method style, I’m going to start with a hypothesis for frameworks around both of these. I expect them to evolve as I write and learn.

What makes great products?

My hypothesis is that great products have 3 characteristics –
1. Nail job-to-be-done: They are a great solution to a problem users care about
2. Delight to use: They are well designed
3. Sticky: Makes the customer/user want to come back

These characteristics, in turn, helps them grow. There are many ways to think about this cycle of growth. Acquire -> Activate -> Retain -> Monetize -> Refer is one way to do it, for example. But, I’ll aim to simplify again and just focus on the following cycle of 1) Growth (the act of bringing new users into a product) -> 2) Onboarding (the act of converting new users to power users) -> 3) Usage (the act of retaining power users)

As you can see, there’s a strong connection between the two.

What makes great product leaders?

There’s a distinction to be made here between product management and product leadership. So, working through this takes us through the first principles of how products are built. Product management, for instance, requires product builders to sit at the intersection of engineering, design and business needs. And, product leadership, on the other hand, requires thought leadership (an in-depth understanding of what customers need and what the market is ready for) and people leadership.

I’ve intentionally separated the two as great product leaders don’t always have to great product managers. That’s a longer discussion for a later time.

All of this means there’s plenty to write about. I expect to spend time on products that nail one or more of these characteristics and aspects of great product management and leadership. I will always try to bring things back into 3 key aspects – e.g. 3 aspects of building great products or 3 parts of the growth cycle – as I rarely remember more than 3 things. And, additionally, a list of the 3 most important aspects gets us 90% of the way there.

I look forward to the learning and the discussion that follows. This should be fun.