What is Product Development?


To me, this means the art of turning an idea into something people want. An idea is a solution. But, if the problem it is solving isn’t big enough then it will not live. In order for it to be alive, it must have both an audience and the technology to support it. I am focused on mastering this processes of build, measure, learn to turn ideas into sustainable businesses. The important notion here is iterations. Everything happens in a circle, not a line. The process repeats until it works or until the team and resources have reached a limit.

I like to set the iteration limit to three. This is arbitrary and could be more or less. The important notion here is that three iterations sets my team's expectations. No one shows up expecting to nail it the first time. It also protects us from the Sunk Cost Fallacy. This is when you reason that further investment is necessary simply because the resources already invested will be lost. It is a nostalgic position and is dangerous because it uses your time and money on ideas that have been tried thus stunting the other ideas that you haven’t tried yet. This is the balance between sunk costs and opportunity costs.

I also believe strongly in giving yourself some time to play with an idea. Especially in the early iterations. The first iteration could very well be just building the idea so that only you can play with it. Then at least you can see if it was worth it. A common mistake is to believe your idea will be successful before you have tried it.

Product Development is a system of limits.  Here are a few...

  1. Journal as you go.

  2. Write down your assumptions early and do a retrospective later to evaluate them.

  3. Keep your first build iterations to month size projects

  4. Build the simplest thing that could possible work first.

  5. Give yourself three iterations

  6. Build then operate.

The trick to this process is in the limitations. Keep the first build as small as possible to learn as much as possible. The Ministry of Product is a Dojo of sorts for helping to explore this. I am constantly learning new ways of thinking and new ideas. This practice will never really be finished. We can only hope to continue the practice so that each of us can learn from the other and ultimately discover real paths that no one has ever taken.