Notes on The Bad Idea Terminator by Melissa Perri

From the video of her presentation at QCon London 2015, posted 7/5/15, link here.

Building is the easy part. Figuring out what to build is hard

So how do we decided what to build–and when to abandon product builds that aren’t succeeding?

A PM’s job is to narrow the focus, to find the best idea and limit things to it

A PM has to say no even to the boss

How do you become the Product Terminator? How do you Fail Fast?

  1. Stamp out bias
    1. Causality–the belief that things happen for a specific cause and you know that cause
      1. The copycat experience often fails–“everyone else has one” etc–avoid this trap
    2. Curse of Knowledge–viewing everything from a position of great knowledge without realiziing regular people aren’t so knowledgable
      1. Get out of the building and talk to actual customers!
    3. Anchoring–latching on the relatively insignificant data and making decisions based around it
      1. Often what is said is very different than reality–“everyone wants” often turns out to be 1 person
      2. Demand data to prove there’s desire for this idea
    4. Create a Feature Request Form to encourage your colleagues to think things through:
      1. What feature would you like to build?
      2. What KPI will this change? By how much?
      3. Is there any other value for this change?
      4. What is the business priority?
      5. Is this dependent on any other changes?
  2. Focus on the problem and avoid a solution with no problem
    1. What are we building this? Don’t let people start with solutions, focus first on defining the problem
    2. The first solution is usually not the best one so it’s important not to take it at face value
    3. Is this a problem we CAN and WANT to solve?
  3. Test ideas quickly and frequently
    1. Avoid “the build trap”
      1. Don’t commit too early to the first solution
      2. Get folks to generate more solution ideas so that they’re not stuck on a single idea
      3. Don’t invest too much and then be unwilling to let go when the product doesn’t prove to be viable
      4. Test test test–very early, very quickly, very cheaply
        1.  Create small, data drive experiments to validate interest…interview customers, make a quickie landing page, create an incredibly low fidelity wireframe and test for:
          1. Do users have this problem?
          2. Are they interested in your solution idea?
          3. Are they interested in a solution at all?
        2. Even if your testing proves people aren’t interested in this problem, you may discover what problems they actually DO have
  4. Make you can to measure success
    1. Set goals from the start and keep measuring for success
    2. Determine how much value you need to capture from your customer to make this worth it
    3. Learn what does and doesn’t work
    4. The risk of continuing to work on a bad idea gets higher and higher over time
    5. The risk of launching a bad idea can be huge–your customers might immediately seek out a replacement product and never look at yours again–regular people don’t understand or expect iteration

From the site: Melissa Perri is an experienced Product Manager and UX Designer from the New York City, where she has worked in various startups. Her core expertise focuses on integrating lean startup methodology into product and UX practices at existing companies and startups.


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