For the last decade we’ve learned how to build products the right way. That’s great. It’s now time to ask: are we building the right products?

 

If I were to ask you how sure you are that you’re building the right product—or feature— right now, chances are that you’re quite confident. You’ve done your research, talked to customers, talked to your team, and know the technology.

But what if I tell you that one third of what we build fail to show value. Another third has a negative impact on the value. And the last third may have a somewhat positive effect towards what you aimed for.

These numbers may not apply to you, but they did apply to Microsoft in 2009 (Online Experimentation at Microsoft). And I believe that says something.

With that in mind …

… let’s make a bet. How much are you willing to bet that what you’re building right now will show the value you hope for? Your lunch? That’s probably fine. What about a week of vacation? Or your car? Maybe your house even? Not enough? Alright, let’s bet your retirement savings.

Maybe now you’ve started to falter in your conviction that what you’re building absolutely will bring about the desired value. Personally, I’d say that’s a pretty good place to be. In the complexity of building products for other people we shouldn’t be too sure (and assume) that we’re on the right path.

So what can we do?

Experiment of course! List your assumptions, figure out what you need to learn, what decisions you need to make, what information you need to make decisions, and start experiments to get those answers, lower risk, and raise your true confidence.

I won’t go the details of experiments and learning activities in this post, but talk to your colleagues—chances are that someone knows something. That, or have a look at buying Strategyzer’s book Value Proposition Design. Tobias Fors Product Owner course bring up a few examples, and Jeff Patton’s talk Thud: Why it’s not failure you should be afraid of maps some activities to your level of confidence or risk.

 

Footnotes

1. Thank you, Jeff Patton, for the betting examples.

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