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Shreyas Doshi
Product failure is expensive. And look around, it’s common. Why do products fail? Is it becos we can't build the product? No Is it becos we launched it N weeks late? Almost never So what is it? The 7 Biases of Product teams, a very visual thread:
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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It all started when I asked myself this question in the year 2016:
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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This thread is my answer to that question. And it has to do with the biases of product teams when building products. 3 parts to this thread:
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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To answer that, let’s start with the Inputs—Outputs—Outcomes framework. Within the scope of this framework, our challenge is simple, though not easy. Our challenge is: How do we collect the right Inputs, convert them to the right Outputs, so we can get to the right Outcomes?
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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And THAT is where Decisions come in. Mind you, we make countless decisions while building, enhancing and marketing our products. The quality of those Decisions is ultimately what determines the impact that our product makes.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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That’s why I like to say—you do not rise to the level of your plan. It’s easy to make a great-looking plan—you fall to the level of your decision-making.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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Annual planning is useful, but the decisions you make while creating your product strategy will determine your long-term success more than your annual plan.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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So, if you show me 10 teams with similar ability and ask me which one will produce more wins over the long term? I’ll tell you that it’s the team that makes the most effective decisions.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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We can all appreciate what the person on the left is saying about making effective decisions. That's all well and good, but what the person to the right is saying is equally important. And that is: to avoid making bad choices.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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Let's let Charlie Munger drive this point home. For a sufficiently smart & motivated group of individuals, decision-making is less about making brilliant choices, and much more about avoiding bad ones. And THAT is why we need to study the biases that stymie us as product people
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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Let's start with a product story. Once upon a time, a team has a new product idea. The team is very customer-driven & they talk to customers about their product hypothesis. Customers sound very excited, so Andy & team get the mandate to build out version 1 of the product.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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The team works hard, executes almost flawlessly on v1 and launches it in just 6 months.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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Andy now goes back to the customers who had expressed interest in the product early on: "the product is ready for deployment". And then he waits. And he waits some more. And then some more. Unfortunately, even 6 months after its initial launch, barely any customer adoption.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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It’s now time for a product review with the exec team. At the review, Andy directs attention towards the positives. Here’s what we’ve learned: Our MVP isn’t sufficient. We need to make it easier to adopt. We need features X, Y, and Z Kris, the CPO, gives the go-ahead.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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The team takes 6 more months to build features X, Y, and Z. Adoption is still not nearly where it needs to be. Flat. Time for another product review.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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Andy, still very customer-centric, says: “We know from talking to customers that we have the right product. We just need to improve our Go-To-Market strategy & execution” Kris & Jo discuss ideas to improve GTM approach: bundling, re-org the Sales team, pricing, etc.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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They go ahead and make the changes on the GTM front. Another year goes by. Adoption is STILL flat.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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So finally, at the next product review, almost 3 years after work began, a decision is made: It’s time to sunset this product.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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Now, at this point: Learnings are captured and shared widely in the org "We haven't failed, we have learned” Of course, Edison’s lightbulb quote is repeated several times “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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So… what really happened here? Now clearly, there can be many possible causes for product failure. But in this case, the main observation is a simple one: This product should not have been built in the first place.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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When Andy talked to customers about the specific problem of customer support costs, they naturally “focused” on that problem. And with that Focus on a specific problem, they excluded other, more important problems they were facing.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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That is why these customers could never find the time or resources to actually adopt & deploy the product when it was ready. Here’s what Andy should have done instead:
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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After talking to each customer about the problem of support costs, he should have asked them to stack rank that problem vs. all the other problems they were trying to solve for their business & for their organization. THAT is where the real truth could have emerged.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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This Customer Problems Stack Rank (CPSR) acts as a great test of the TRUE priority of the customer problem & the product solution you’re discussing.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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Anyway, back to our story, there are at least 3 biases that got in the way of Andy, Kris, Jo and team here.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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The first one being: The Focusing Illusion, first described by Daniel Kahneman.
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Shreyas Doshi Sep 25
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While Kahneman was prolly talking about everyday life, the Focusing Illusion applies to products too. It's one of the biases I see quite often. It’s common because it’s largely invisible. Companies that think of themselves as customer-driven are especially susceptible to it.
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