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PM Lessons from cartoons (part 1)

A picture is worth a thousand words :) I love how some cartoons drive home important lessons to keep top of mind as a PM. Over the years I've collected a few of these gems and want to share them with you today.

Lesson 1: Use VOC (Voice of Customer) feedback with a grain of salt.

The below cartoon by Chris Douglas has evolved into a top favorite for me. As a PM you have to remember that sometimes , customer requirements are solutions they have created to work around a problem. They don't address what the problem is. When you take the solution described by the customer as sacrosanct and implement it in the product - you are potentially building something that is a band-aid and not necessarily addressing the real pain point.

Case study/ Example: There's a theory developed by Harvard Professor , Clayton Christensen called Innovator's dilemma. In this book he describes why great companies make blunders and stop being market leaders . In his study, he focused on the disc drive industry. Over the years, disc drives changed from 12 inch, to 8 inch to 5.5 inch to 3.25 inch. Only IBM survived the change of the different sizes vs other leaders at that time Diablo, Ampex, Memorex, EMM etc. Why? Because the latter companies spoke to customers who all advised them to "ignore these newer disc drive sizes.. they are for entertainment purposes only and not to be taken seriously". So they didn't innovate and failed. Sometimes customers don’t know what they really want.

Lesson 2: Adopt a "Start with Zero" mindset

I <3 Dilbert comics very very much :) . The cartoon below is a great reminder to avoid scope creep and focus on ruthless prioritization . It applies to both MVPs (Minimum viable product) and feature enhancements to existing products . Whenever you are designing a feature / enhancement go back to the basics. Try to ask yourself - What is the pain

point ? What are you trying to accomplish? Now, whats the simplest way to achieve this outcome (without considering what exists).

Case Study/ Example (Reference from Effortless by Greg McKeown) : Let's take another Apple example here. Apple introduced this concept of iDVD in the early 2000s - it was an application to burn music , movies, photos stored on computers into a physical DVD. When the design team wanted to update this - they presented a gorgeous application to Steve Jobs that kept a lot of original features and functionality but managed to streamline the original product that had a (gasp!) thousand page user manual. But Jobs came in asked them to scratch all that. He walked to the whiteboard and drew a rectangle - heres the new application , he said . One window only - drag your image/video etc into that window. Click on a button that says "Burn" Done. That's it ! The designers all had an Aha moment .They were trying to take a really complicated product and tried to simplify - Jobs started at zero and wanted to know the simplest possible way to get to the outcome.

Lesson 3: Adopt an iterative mindset when developing products

When you are launching a new product - you are not going to get it right from your first launch. Product-market fit for new products take a while. It is an iterative process. So you need to embrace launching early and often to learn what works and doesn't. Feedback from early iterations will help influence later versions and help crystalize vision, strategy & GTM.

Case Study/ Example: Classpass is one of my favorite startups at all time. They have a unique value proposition "Every gym around you is YOUR gym - work out anywhere you want, anytime you want". It simple to use . You get a monthly membership - each tier gives you certain points. You can book gym classes at any provider you like - each class has certain points that will be detected from your total. Now they didn't always start that way - they started out as a schedule and review provider app (yelp for fitness classes) to evolving into the current experience. What's more during the pandemic they further evolved to do more online and digital workouts. All this would not have been possible if they had just gone all in on the yelp for fitness idea. Their protoypes and mvp were lightweight and allowed for testing and quick feedback.

What are some of your favorite images/ cartoons for product management? Please share in comments below ! Until next time ..cheers

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