Problem Obsessed

The best product people, I've worked with, are not the ones with the best ideas. In fact, I have found that product people are so focused on understanding and empathizing with problems that they spend far less times talking about solutions.

The best of the best product people understand and empathize with all of their internal stakeholders.

The first of these groups are their own internal stakeholders. They empathize with their engineers, their designers, marketing, sales, etc. They know how their team operates and what it will take to set expectations and be successful.

The second group or cohort they have to empathize with is their external stakeholders - and this is crucial. They must understand what it's like to be a customer. Building empathy here is, in my mind, the hardest thing to do for product people.

Why is it so hard? 

I have written about this many times - but I keep seeing it come up - building experiments to learn about your customer is really hard.

It is really hard because most of us are not aware of our own biases that it makes running a true and honest experiment very challenging. Our personal bias often leaks such that we choose / overlay solutions into our problems. 

In this case, the best ideas do not always win. 

The ideas that win are the ones that your perspective/bias sees as best - but the reality is far different.

To avoid this paradox, focus on problems and build data around them. Often you should not even write down ideas for solutions before you clearly identify problems.

It may sound inefficient, but the reality is that spending tons of time understanding and breaking down the core problem will truly save you tons of time long term. 

Invest the time up front. It's always worth it.