Book Review: “Expert to Executive: Mastering the SOPs of Leading” by Tyson, Edward E.

We have all witnessed this phenomenon – organizations typically choose some of their best individual contributors or domain experts to be in leadership positions (past record is the best indicator of future performance!). Irrespective of whether or not expectations at leadership roles are specified and understood, this transition from being an expert to a manager is often hard and bewildering. This book that I read recently (“Expert to Executive: Mastering the SOPs of Leading” by Tyson, Edward E.) proposes a framework to bridge the chasm between an expert and a leader

One of the assertions the book makes is that leaders aren’t leading because we haven’t clearly defined the term or differentiated their work from their team’s work. The book is written in a conversation style describing struggles of a co-founder Raj, who is one of the best scientific minds in the field his medical research based start-up operates in. Raj along with Franky and Mak started this company seven years ago. After the sudden loss of Mak, Raj had been elevated from Chief Science Officer to CEO. A year into his elevation, Raj has gone back to the shell of conducting experiments while the rest of the org is on the brink of collapse due to chaos and lack of leadership clarity. Franky has hired an executive coach, Lake, to help solve the problem by working with Raj. Rest of the book narrates how Lake and Franky understand the situation and turn-around. It’s an easy read (but hard to reflect!), I will just list out few of my takeaways

  1. As a leader, taking responsibility for your actions is important. Taking all of the responsibility may rob others of theirs!
  2. “The ECT(M) Transformation Model helps leaders guide individual, team and organizational development efforts. The first three phases (Explore, Clarify and Transform) are often repeated multiple times in succession until the process and outcomes meet the established criteria
  3. The big takeaway about emotional intelligence is it can be developed, versus more stable elements of who we are, like personality or raw intelligence
  4. As a leader, your coaching has to match your mentee’s level of understanding. This is the reason why platitudes like “have more frequent interactions with stakeholders” don’t exactly work for someone who is having a hard time working with others. Because often struggling person doesn’t understand how having more meetings will help
  5. One must be aware of own “unconscious competence” to bridge any gap especially when assessing other people
  6. Leadership is a process of social organization meant to yield willing, capable and sustainable communities of effort
    1. Community of effort implies a group of people who are united by their willingness and ability to act interdependently
    2. Leadership is the process we use to cultivate a community of effort. If you could do it alone, you wouldn’t need to lead
    3. The important thing is to build a strong leadership foundation. This means focusing on three key areas: structuring, operating, and perfecting your communities of effort
  7. Leading is the active engagement in the process of cultivating willing, capable, and sustainable communities of effort while leaders are those who accept accountability for this effort
  8. Your primary goal as a leader is assembling a high-performance engine, not winning the race! Winning the race is the team’s primary objective and your secondary objective
  9. Every leader has to create her own Leadership SOP basis what works for her, team and organization and keep it refining (perfecting)

Fig 1: Key Components of LeadershipSOP Framework

It’s a great practicable book, would recommend reading and importantly reflecting on it to create one’s own LeadershipSOP model which is indeed a harder task!

Six Months Later…

It’s been slightly more than 6 months since I lost my father. Here is how things have happened since then

  1. From a distance, your understanding of the person gone becomes more refined and objective. My father was definitely a more courageous, caring parent and action-oriented than I thought him to be earlier. Things may not have changed to his liking but he did try in the moment
  2. Grief cycles keep coming, less frequent but probably more guilt-ridden. This happens suddenly: one awkward dream, one Google Photos reminder, someone relating an incident involving him, shared dreams, deja vu when chatting with kids…
  3. Feeling that he isn’t any longer around hasn’t yet sunk in. Also probably because 6 months – 1 year duration was what we used to meet anyway so it feels like nothing much has changed beyond one nightmarish occurrence
  4. Worrying about the surviving parent gets more acute. You want to maximize the time together. I will likely bring my mother to live with us together, after the annual rituals are over. This should also be freeing from the constant worry about how she is feeling / doing and what I can do to support her in the moment
  5. You are more circumspect about expressing feelings of loss and repentance. Everyone in close circles deals with grief differently, people appear to have moved on, you are not sure whether expressing difficulties you are facing to others isn’t troubling them. So probably better to grieve alone and in silence
  6. Videos are absolute treasure troves. While going through one of the videos I randomly shot, my father was discussing someone long gone. He commented something like offsprings of the people who have done some good karmas in their lives are generally contented and happy

Many things learnt, will end the post here

Book Review: “Strong Product People” by Petra Wille

Hello readers, I am resuming writing here after a year! I hope to be more regular going forward. I am also changing the book review format a little this time, in order to make it more legible and understandable for the readers

The book Strong Product People by Petra Wille is a recommended one for a product leader managing other PMs. If you have been a fan of Marty Cagan’s writings, his foreword does give confidence on the content of the book. The book is neatly divided into five segments and my reviews follows the same

  • defining the product manager role in your environment and what it means to be a good PM
  • managing your team
  • finding and recruiting good PMs
  • developing your existing product team
  • building a great product culture

Defining the PM Role

The author likens the role of a product leader to that of a building the shipyard i.e. leading the folks who build ships or ship builds (pardon the pun!). Almost all the activities a head of product (HoP) does can be centered around product, people, and process triangle

In the second chapter, focus is on doing an as-is analysis of PM capabilities. Every PM needs to be assessed as Gets it, Wants it, Capacity to do it labels on all competencies defined for a good PM role. This grid should give you an idea about org capability and specific development gaps you need to bridge

Figure 1: The job of a product manager

As Marty Cagan says the only true measure of the product manager is the success of his or her product, I couldn’t agree more!

Managing a PM team

Being highly self-aware is the starting point of any leadership journey. An A-grade leader can be defined as someone who

  • inspires and motivates others
  • displays high integrity and honesty
  • solves problems and analyzes issues
  • drives for results
  • and communicates powerfully and prolifically

The very best leaders understand that management is all about people and building strong relationships and trust. A great leader has to understand his people outside work and spot interpersonal tensions and react to them appropriately before they become worse! A leader’s behavior is also very closely watched by his people so leading by example becomes extremely important. As leader you have to also set benchmarks for good performance since everyone’s watching to see what the lowest level of PM performance is that you as HoP are willing to tolerate. You have to also follow through on your commitments!

A PM leadership role is supposed to be that of a coach and the author lists very practical steps; before you as HoP can put on your coach’s hat. First you have to ensure that your PMs are high on competence! Also when you are coaching a PM, you have to tame your advisor’s instinct and let the coachee find the way by asking her the right question at the right time! You have to also keep experimenting with different aspects of your coaching: the setting (for example, less-formal settings vs. more-formal settings), the frequency of your coaching sessions, different questions, approaches to follow-ups, different coaching frameworks, and so on. And then do more of what works in your context!

In terms of managing performance expectations with your team members, the author refers to the Radical Candor approach i.e. care personally and challenge directly. It’s your job to balance both sides! You have to also focus NOT on your fears but what they NEED. When providing negative feedback, it should also be not tied to personal traits but to specific behaviors. It goes without saying that providing negative feedback needs more work on HoP’s part than a positive feedback would

You should absolutely find time for people development discussions and not postpone those in favor of “work” related ones. This can sometime mean you have to tie your people development goals to your bigger work and life goals (e.g. “I want to build the best ecommerce product talent here and this is my opportunity to do so!”)

Finding and recruiting the PM talent

When hiring for product people on your team, you have to assume direct responsibility and work with your talent acquisition team to attract the best talent out there which means being personally visible on channels which matter to the talent pool. When screening candidates especially for leadership roles you have to focus more on how well they understand the problem and whether they have gotten things done with a team. When onboarding a new PM, you have to focus on getting her first educated guess made as soon as possible! You have to be superprecise in terms of setting expectations with your new hire! (side note:you will see so many super- prefixes throughout the book!)

Figure 2: A typical PM’s career progression

On the other hand, while working with senior PMs – HoP should think about mastery, autonomy and sense of purpose as key levers to drive true motivation. You should also plan one big change for your senior PM talent every year!

Developing your existing product team

When you set strategy and vision for your product, you have to focus on one or two critical issues in your situation i.e. the pivot points that can multiply the effectiveness of effort—and then focus and concentrate action and resources on them. In short, you have to ensure your strategy is how to achieve your vision and why for your roadmaps!

Figure 3: A simple framework for creating product vision, strategy, goals and principles

The author gives a practicable tip to get PMs find new ideas and assumptions through a term called desk research which is an umbrella term for finding some statistics, user research etc..essentially the objective should be to build right things than just building any thing 

PMs are always starved of time, this problem is compounded by Parkinson’s law (work expands to fill the time available!) and our natural tendency to procrastinate. The author offers a practical advice around timeboxing any activity which should objectively ensure reasonable time given to important activities without above factors affecting the time invested adversely

Similarly when choosing which meeting to attend, every meeting should be slotted into one of the three types: update, brainstorm and decision. The PM should be clear what every meeting’s objectives are and only attend the ones she absolutely should 

Figure 4: choosing which work to finish first: rocks (big ones) should go first!

HoPs should also invest enough time especially with their junior PMs to help them hone their story telling skills (don’t leave them alone here!) and also be able to explain why something is not getting prioritized to their peer groups. Just for reference, a good story has 4 components

  • It paints a picture of a desirable future
  • It makes it clear why you should become part of this future
  • It acknowledges the current situation while describing the potential difficulties that may arise and why it’s worth overcoming them
  • It suggests a common goal with just enough information to make next steps clear for listeners

In order to make a message stick, you should avoid using words more often used in your org context or jargons etc. They make the core message lose some shine!

Building a great culture

As HoP, you have to create space for your product talent to succeed. If your org structure comes in the way of creating strong product culture, you have to additionally balance with detailed role descriptions and a clear definition of responsibilities with partner orgs. And as a guiding principle, you have to take care of the product, people and process; and ensure that each of your PMs has the next bigger challenge lined up for them which ensures they keep learning!

Overall verdict

If you are a product leader managing other PMs: 7/10

If you are an individual contributor PM: 4/10

If you are a non-PM leader who frequently works with a PM leader: 6/10

Can this be the first reading as a product leader seeking answers to questions posed here? No, the book assumes familiarity with certain concepts from the readers!

What would have made the book even a greater addition to your reading list?

  • More emphasis on practical scenarios and how the author has tackled them in her work situation
  • A coherent sequencing for some chapters, some of which appear disconnected. For example, chapter 24 in Part 4 around managing senior PMs could probably have been better slotted in Part 2 as managing teams
  • Sometimes content is inserted abruptly e.g. Agile manifesto, many book references, infrequent quotation from the Internet could have been placed better or perhaps omitted altogether
  • Citations could have been directly linked to specific portions in the text. Though overall references do appear as good recommendations to go through later, they appear disconnected and intimidating to get good grip on the content

This book can be ordered through Flipkart and Amazon! Do give it a try!

Memories and Thoughts On My Father

I lost my father on June 18, 2022. This post chronicles the lasting memories of my father and has little to do with product management or leadership. You may skip if you feel like. Thank you

Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita says

यत्करोषि यदश्नासि यज्जुहोषि ददासि यत् |

यत्तपस्यसि कौन्तेय तत्कुरुष्व मदर्पणम् || 9.27||

Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer as oblation to the sacred fire, whatever you bestow as a gift, and whatever austerities you perform, O son of Kunti, do them as an offering to Me

I lost my father almost a month back on June 18, 2022. He would have been 73 this October. He had been battling cancer for the last 2 years. There have been so many thoughts running in my mind through all these days and there has never been a moment I have not missed him. Before my mind starts painting a distant mirage to my memories with him, I wanted to put some of these things down. If you are fortunate to have parents with you, maybe you can find some of these helpful

  1. There is a gaping hole in the heart. The sense of loss never goes away. I wish that whatever happened was a dreamy nightmare and when I get back home, I’d meet him. I also think the only thing that will change with time is the frequency at which these thoughts keep coming
  1. You have limited time with your parents. In the modern mobility era, we don’t live with our parents or even near to them in the most likelihood. Because of Covid-induced WFH flexibility, online education classes for kids and wife’s support; I got to spend almost one year with him. Pre-Covid and assuming once-a-year 2-weeks visit to parents, it’s almost equivalent to 25 years of together-time!
  1. Parents are vulnerable and are not infallible. In the early part of my adulthood, I was more often angry with my parents for many reasons. However, when I got a chance to see them up close after almost 20 years, I could understand their perspective, limitations and ways of evaluating things. Factually speaking, they have always tried to do the best in my interest to the point that they hurt themselves. Forgive your parents if there is still time. Even when the death was very near and he had realized it was, his bigger worry was how his disease was impacting my life. Probably, he wanted to go sooner
  2. Doing your best is paramount. In a complex intractable disease like a metastatic melanoma, it is not always clear what to make of the treatment options. I always did what was in the best interest of him at any point in time. For these two years, I put everything aside – career, family, life, money, my own comfort. We tried every treatment option possible- surgery, radiation, drug trial, immunotherapy, genome sequencing, chemotherapy, targeted therapies, Ayurveda you name it. After almost 100 hospital visits, hospitalisations and many inoculations, we could not save him. But he did put up a good fight and never lost the will to live till the very end. I also think I was there for him when he needed me the most
  1. Death always surprises. I knew it was terminal cancer for almost 2 years and was keeping myself ready for the final eventuality. However when the death came, it appeared suddenly. I could not see him motionless. Even now, I somehow think when I go back to my native place, we’d meet and discuss inane stuff. It’s not sunk in yet or probably never will
  1. Create memories, videos are 100X more valuable than photos. I once asked my father which one place he wanted to visit the most. He replied Pashupati Nath temple in Kathmandu. He had always been a devotee of Lord Shiva. That visit never happened because of his health. Seeing my father deteriorating every day, I did make a list of things we wanted to do together. Some of them we could do, most we could not. I also recorded many videos of him, in natural settings and inflexions which are infinitely more valuable than hundreds of still photos
  1. People will disappoint you. They say parents are the only true well-wishers in your life. Everyone else is pretending to sound like one at best. All through this struggle, I could see charade, pretense and make-believe chatter and actions from people in my life – friends, acquaintances, relatives, siblings. If you genuinely believe in people’s generosity and big heartedness, some realism would help. A more optimistic explanation why sometimes people disappoint us could be not because they are genuinely “bad”, but because we tend to project our personalities and beliefs on them; which is not necessarily reflective. So if you are more of an idealistic person like I am, be ready to be disappointed more often!
  1. Having a noble heart is important. I had lost one of my younger cousins in May 2022 and my father was visibly distressed. He had almost complained to God it was his turn to go. Being lost myself, I asked him the purpose of life or how to live life. He told me two things a. It’s important that you do good to other people to the extent you can b. Money is important in life
  1. Cancer care is broken. Right from finding that his disease could be a suspect case of cancer in May 2020 to now, I could see how cancer care is broken in our country. Diagnosis is imprecise, care choices are unclear, hospice services are non-existent, doctors advise you not necessarily what’s in the patient’s best interest but their “assessment” of your financial situation. And I am talking of some of the best cancer care Institutes in the country

Cancer is a brutal disease. The Bhagavad Gita verse quoted above is what I used to narrate to him when his pain was too severe to handle even with strong sedatives. I used to tell him to offer his sufferings and pain to God and not keep those within himself. I am unsure how much it helped him. I also recited to him the first chapter of the Gita, but he was apparently disinterested so I discontinued. Later I got to know from my mother that he had been reading the Gita himself alone. Probably he had internalized the meaning of the verse

My father was a simple farmer and a family man. He provided the best to a large family of ours from the limited resources he had. After successfully fighting staged court battles, physical feuds, he also passed the same heritage to us as he had got from his father. He was stoic and brave in his many struggles through life. He loved animals, especially birds and cows. He also favored the poor and vulnerable people almost like a socialist and often to his considerable financial loss

Parents are always alive within us, they never die. I performed final rituals as he had once told me to. He wanted to be cremated where our ancestors have been for hundreds of years. Even in his greatest pain, he remembered his father and how he would help him fight the disease. I would suppose he received the same care and love in his last days that he gave to his parents in their final days

We had prayed together on Mahashivratri in our village temple this March. My mother later told me he had started fasting on Mahashivratri the year I was born and never skipped fasting even for once since then

Hindus believe in reincarnations till we unite with the Supreme Entity. Either way, I pray to Mahadev that I meet him – in the next life as his son again or united as one with the Lord

PS: Many thanks to Dr Manish Singhal from Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi and Dr Santanu Chaudhary from Pushpanjali Hospitals, Agra for taking care of my father

Lastly, I am grateful to my employer Flipkart for their excellent health insurance, flexible work policies and unwavering support throughout the 2 years. And to many of my colleagues who often endured bad network and audio quality from my side over Google Meet calls because I was working from an actual “remote” location, thank you!

Book Review: “UX Strategy” by Jaime Levy

Do you know the difference between an assumption and a hypothesis? 

An assumption is something that you suppose to be true, such as “Often PMs are engineers.” A hypothesis is also something that you suppose to be true, but it is stated in an unambiguous way so that it can be tested

This is the second edition of the famous book UX Strategy by Jaime Levy. While I wanted to read the first one, that never happened! There are a lot of tactical level details in this book which are omitted, in my view, because of the conciseness of the book, nevertheless it should serve as a good reference point! In short, if you want to give structure to your product development philosophy, you should give this book a try. One important caveat the author makes is that the UX strategy practice she described in the first edition is now synonymous with product strategy. So relax all the product managers out here!

Cover Image of the Book “UX Strategy” by Jaime Levy

I have tried capturing the essence of the book in the following headers

A. On Business Strategy, UX Strategy and Product Vision

A shared product vision means that your team and stakeholders have the same mental model for your future product

A good business strategy is one centered around the customer. This is why you must validate your presumed customer segment and their unmet needs. 

  • User experience (UX) strategy lies at the intersection of UX design and business strategy
  • It’s an empirical process! 
  • Experience strategy is the combination of business strategy and UX strategy. The “user experience,” or “UX,” is how a human experiences a digital product while attempting to accomplish a task or goal
  • A stellar UX strategy is a means to disrupt the marketplace through mental model innovation

As a product matures with a growing user base, it’s crucial to revisit your strategy. Conducting validation experiments to discover new customer segments, marketing channels, and revenue streams is a job that is never done

B. On Components of UX Strategy and Lean Startup

Four tenants of UX strategy are 1. Business strategy 2. Value innovation 3. Validated user research 4. Frictionless UX

The discovery phase is where UX strategy begins. The output of the discovery phase should be based on empirical evidence, such as getting direct input from target users before going straight from an idea to wireframes and development

The business strategy identifies the company’s guiding principles for how it will position itself and still achieve its objectives while beating the competition. For this to happen, the business must continually identify and utilize a competitive advantage

For a more mature company, the strategy is about building on the company’s core value proposition while trying to evolve the company’s infrastructure and internal processes to support that growth, often called digital transformation!

Business Model Canvas—customer segments, channels, value propositions, revenue streams, and customer relationships—are elements that are essential to creating a product’s online and offline experience

Lean startup made conducting validated user research a make-or-break aspect of moving forward on a product’s strategy. Validation is the process of confirming that a specific customer segment finds value in your solution

Lean Startup was proposed by Ash Maurya in 2010. Its components are 

  1. Customer segments 
  2. Problem 
  3. Unique value proposition 
  4. Solution 
  5. Channels 
  6. Revenue streams 
  7. Cost structure 
  8. Key metrics
  9. Unfair advantage

C. On User Research

Research hypotheses are the answer to the question “What are the most important things I need to learn to determine if my solution is desirable and viable?”

Use your research to validate your decisions and ensure that the product vision is aligned with the end user’s needs

  • The purpose of conducting user research is to understand the needs and goals of your target customer in order to inform the product’s value proposition
  • Confronting your target customers is nonnegotiable. We must learn as quickly as possible if the idea we are working on is stupid and worthless
  • Don’t take what your stakeholders or team says at face value. To learn what potential customers want, hunt them down in person
  • It’s contested if you should ask a customer what they would pay for a product. Customers may lowball you or have no idea. however, getting a sense of what customers expect to pay may be helpful for informing marketing and pricing strategies

Customer discovery is about listening and not selling. The customer interview is actually made up of three parts: the introduction, the screener, and the interview. When you ask the money-shot question, just capture the essence of the person’s response and, if appropriate, ask any relevant follow-up questions

Qualitative research relies on the observation and collection of nonnumerical insights such as opinions e.g. focus groups, contextual inquiries, and ethnographic studies.

  • Ethnographic research—the study of people in their natural environment—is all about getting to the deep, dark places, much like the qualitative personas
  • Do not begin interviews with small talk. Be professional!

D. On Value Proposition

A value proposition takes the form of a concise statement that summarizes the unique benefits customers can expect from your product or service i.e. value proposition is what a company promises to deliver to the customer

But value propositions are not valuable if they do not solve a real problem. The followings are the steps to define a value proposition

  • Define your primary customer segment
  • Identify your customer segment’s (biggest) problem
  • Create provisional personas based on your assumptions
  • Conduct customer discovery to validate or invalidate your provisional persona and problem statement
  • Reassess your initial value proposition based on what you have learned!

E. On Customer Segmentation and Value Creation

The customer segment is a group of people with a common need. These segments can be identified by a combination of demographic, psychographic, and behavioral attributes. For B2B products, you should create two personas: one for the person who will be paying for the product (i.e., the CTO) and one for the person who will be using the product

The problem statement should not presuppose a solution until the problem has actually been validated. By having product teams focus on the problem statement, they are more likely to have an open mind when ideating on solutions

Don’t confuse persona archetypes with stereotypes. Because personas provide a precise design target and also serve as a communication tool to the development team, the designers must choose a particular demographic characteristic with care

Because the provisional persona represents a group of people rather than one person, think of a concise, descriptive name to characterize the segment, such as “Gen X Parents in Los Angeles” or “Jewish Expats in Berlin.” It is useful to articulate common demographic denominators. Location is useful because it forces your team to pinpoint where a market for your product might exist instead of targeting the entire world

Motivation and behavior lie at the heart of value creation. Whatever product you are devising, it is crucial to understand what will motivate people to use it

F. On assessing customers’ needs and goals

What are their product-relevant hopes and dreams? What do they need to solve their primary pain point? What specific needs or goals aren’t being satisfied by available solutions or workarounds? What are the limitations they face? What is the job they are trying to get done?

  • This section is particularly important to get right because it will inform your product strategy the most. You want actionable statements that address underlying customer concerns

G. On Competition, its definition and analysis

Direct competitors are companies that offer the same or a very similar value proposition to your current or future customers. Indirect competitors offer a different value proposition, but somehow their solution may satisfy the needs of your target customer

Investigate your competition

  • What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong? Why should customers come to you?
  • Conducting research on the competition is a crucial component of business strategy
  • The most efficient way to do a comprehensive competitive analysis is to collect all of the data in a matrix
  • Scour YouTube and Vimeo for publicly available demonstrations, tutorials, and product reviews. If you need more information than what you can find online, you may need to bring in an outside agency
  • For native mobile apps, you can currently get the last month’s downloads without an account using Sensor Tower
  • One always needs to be on your toes, agile, and ready to scrutinize your competitor’s newest ideas and immediately see how they might affect your product vision
  • By benchmarking the competition, you’ll find opportunities to create value by either innovating or optimizing the best UX and business model practices of other competing products
  • If something looks incomplete or missing, did you or whoever did the research overlook an obvious competitor that needs to be considered?
  • SWOT analysis of a nonexistent product or business moves us into the land of make-believe. This is why it’s more meaningful to use it for evaluating competitors from their perspective

H. On what to build?

Reaching beyond existing demand is a key component of achieving value innovation

To get your idea juices flowing on the key features, ask yourself these questions:

  • What will make your provisional personas (hypothesized customers) love this product?
  • What is the aha moment or part of the user’s journey online or offline that makes this product unique?
  • What is a major pain point that you are trying to solve that is not currently being solved by competitors?
  • What kind of workarounds are your potential customers currently doing to accomplish their goals?
  • What is the core benefit for your customers that is derived from the output or manipulation of either your proprietary algorithm and/or data set?
  • What is the functionality or page/screen layout that needs to be designed from scratch because there is no reference for it in any other digital product?

A product recommendation should answer the following questions

  • Can a specific feature be majorly improved or new technology integrated to help customers do something that currently is too complicated or time-consuming for the existing alternatives?
  • How can you make the product experience more personalized or “smart” to increase adoption and engagement?
  • Is there a new revenue stream or disruptive business model that can be experimented with?
  • How can you achieve a competitive advantage that your competitors can’t easily replicate?

If your analysis reveals that the initial value proposition is facing certain risks, your recommendations may need to suggest a pivot on the targeted customer segment or the specific problem

Your future customers need to want to choose your solution over any other because 

a) it’s significantly more efficient than what’s currently out there, 

b) it solves a pain point they didn’t know they had, and/or 

c) it creates an undeniable desire where none existed before

I. On Prototyping

As we prepare to prototype, we’re finally juggling all four of the tenets at the same time. Don’t burn your time, money, or efforts on a product that has not been tested and validated with target customers

These are the critical questions that we need our prototype to answer:

  1. Does the solution solve the problem or major pain points that the target customer expressed?
  2. Does the target customer find the key features valuable?
  3. Would the target customer pay for the product or use it in a way that can be monetized?

The answers to questions 1 and 2 help us validate our value proposition. The answer to question 3 will help us validate our business model

To keep the long story long, this line from the book has resonated well with me. Sometimes, people have fixed ideas, and no amount of research will change their minds. <Then ask yourself> Will I help this person make their product regardless of the research, or do I walk away?

Tough words, how many of us have the courage to walk the talk?! If you don’t get this part right – costs will have to be borne by the team, company and often careers of the people involved whether or not they realise it at that point. In short, don’t solve wrong problems for your own good!


PS: Pop Quiz for UX Geeks!

Q. Do you know the difference between concierge, Wizard of Oz and mechanical turk? 

A. These are the techniques for conducting value proposition experiments!

  • Unlike concierge, customers don’t know that a human is in the loop in case of Wizard of Oz
  • When someone says they are mechanical-turking a product, it typically means they are building a frontend with a human-powered backend to manually simulate a complex digital product. It’s like a crowdsourced version of Wizard of Oz