The world of product development is a scary place without feedback loops working for us at all times. Would you believe me if I told you a sudden epiphany hit me out of nowhere and I instantly realized just how many decisions in life that people make based on assumptions? I’m not talking small, fill-in-the-gap assumptions either, I’m talking about blatant ignorance driving full speed down the road while we ride shotgun with no seat belt. If we’re lucky it’s driving on the right side of the road, but often times we allow it to drive us right into oncoming traffic. Another depiction might be driving without looking where you’re going.
Before I continue, please allow me take a moment to correct an assumption you may have made based on my opening question above. No it wasn’t a sudden epiphany, so you shouldn’t have believed that. It was actually several events leading up to this new year that opened my eyes wide to this fact. So let that be a lesson to you if you answered yes based on premise. Anyway, I’m a bit of a workflow hacker. I’m always looking for ways to automate things, speed things up, improve communication and increase efficiency. This last year I saw a lot of different approaches to developing products. It was a bit of a trying on shoes sort of year. Most methods I was a part of had some pros and showed at least some potential. There were of course cons too.
Plan In A Box Assumptions Just Don’t Work
Perhaps the most repetitive pattern I saw was vast dependency on assumption and speculation. Of course none of the guides, books, blog posts, etc. came right out and said that. Most attempted to promote market research, user tests and metrics and the like. Very few truly got to the root of what this truly means though. It’s an everyday practice for companies to ask their best and brightest minds to come up with products that will disrupt entire industries. They better generate an increasing amount of revenue year over year as well. With that ask they’ll hand down a deadline and ask for you to package up all the details into a 2-3 page document. Now you see, the expectation that they’ll be innovative and create some cash flow isn’t the issue. The problem is that with that deadline comes an absolute need to make some assumptions. Yes, we can do some homework and talk to some of our potential audience or target market. How presumptuous is it that this can all be done in set time period though?
Feedback Loops For All The Things!
“We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.” –Eric Ries
Feedback loops must persevere. Products must adapt. Product teams must stay in touch with their users. Discovery and research should live and breathe throughout the entire life-cycle of our products. They have to be a part of our everyday product development process. The time between a product release and receiving feedback should also be optimized. Doing this empowers product teams to make decisions based on facts and knowledge and validated learning. This is why I think it would be awesome to add feedback loops to all the things. Every product you work on should have a framework that allows you to quickly and easily test ideas. We should make feedback loops a central part of all that we do.
So what am I asking you to do? Take some time to think about just how much assumption goes into the product development process you’re a part of. Then do your best to remove any and all decisions made on assumptions. Test all ideas and theories and use what you learn to develop awesome products that offer value to both your company and your users. Feel free to leave a comment discussing your thoughts on feedback loops or your experiences with assumptions that seem to take the wheel.