When talking to customers is a waste of time
Stop learning to give feedback. Learn to receive it.
If you’re leading a product launch, at some point, you’ll want to talk to real customers. This is an important step and you should keep a pulse on what people want.
Here is where the problem comes in.
When you’re researching, it’s easy to schedule and execute a bunch of customer development interviews.
You pat yourself on the back and say, “I’m being iterative, putting myself out there, and testing my idea with customers!”
In reality, customer interviews are not always productive.
A deadline is looming
Most of us say we want feedback. That is, until we actually get it. Then we get a little defensive:
“Well, actually, what I meant was…”
“I see what you’re saying, but you misunderstood.”
“Really? Because you’re not great at that either!” (A classic.)
These are all ways of saying, “Thanks for your feedback, but you’re wrong."
You know how to give feedback... But how good are you at taking it?
Most of us learned how to give feedback to other people. We learned frameworks like the Sh*t Sandwich, and we learned the importance of empathy and the need to aim for behavior change. But we’ve spent a lot less time learning how to process feedback if we’re the recipient.
This is a missed opportunity. It’s low-cost for you to get better at receiving feedback, and it'll pay dividends in your career, relationships and reputation as a leader.
The good news: Most people are terrible at receiving feedback, so you only need to be a little better at this skill to stand out.
Threshold of happiness
A deadline doesn't really feel like a deadline until it's inches from your face. That's unfortunate--by that time, you're about to get punched. That feeling quickly spreading is called panic.
You should always feel like there is a deadline looming. "Looming" sounds ominous, but it's not. It's the realization that you'd better be moving forward each day.
There's always a deadline coming up. Even when you think there isn't, you'll soon realize there is--when you're grasping trying to make something happen quickly overnight.
Active thinking verus osmosis
If you're on a small team and trying to do a lot with what you have, you have to be smart about how you spend your bandwidth. Decision fatigue is real, and so is the idea of spending your emotional labor. You want to be highly leveraged. If you put more time and attention into anything, of course it will be better.
We don't have unlimited time and attention, though. I rarely hear people complain that they have too much budget, or too much time.
It's a popular idea to delight your customers. We all agree that delighting customers is a good thing. But is there a point when you reach diminishing returns? Is there ever a reason to choose intentionally not to delight customers?
The tool isn't in your toolbox yet
If we're immersed in an environment, will we learn by default?
It's easy to think that we can absorb through osmosis, that we'll hum along and improve simply because we're present. I think intuition develops from deliberate thinking. Not from osmosis.
You can live in France for years--and not speak French fluently (or at all).
When product features are merely a justification: why people buy $200 trash cans
When you read great advice, it hasn't actually changed anything in your life...yet. There are dozens of times each day when you might notice something. You might think,
"I should try that."
In the moment, you're excited to learn something new. You think, "This is another tool in my toolbox. This is fantastic!"
Why the "magic wand" question is useless
Years ago, I had a roommate in San Francisco. He was a 6'1'' software engineer and marathon runner. One day, I heard him squeal. I ran outside to see what was going on.
He was jumping up and down that a big cardboard package arrived. What was it? I thought it would be a new iPad, Bose speaker, Patagonia jacket, flat screen tv...
It was a vacuum cleaner.
A million drops in a bucket is a full bucket
"If you could solve one thing about your business with a magic wand, what would it be?"
This question is usually asked in a list of other questions, so it seems harmless.
But let's take a look at the underlying assumption. The assumption is, "If this one thing were fixed, then everything else would work. Everything else would fall into place."
Speak up before the train crashes
Sometimes it feels like anything you could contribute would just be a drop in the bucket. Is it even worth doing? So we keep searching for the blockbuster hit, the home run, the thing that's going to change thousands or millions of people's minds. That'll really make a difference, that would obviously be worth doing.
I'm not good at holding my tongue when I sense that a train wreck might happen. If you've tried speaking up before, and no one listened, it's tempting to want to teach them a lesson.
Okay fine, well the train will crash. THEN they'll see why they should have listened to me all along...
You don't get to take the moral high ground there. If you sense that something might be wrong, speak up before it's too late.