Down the Rabbit Hole: When Product Managers are Motivated by Why, and Not What, Magic Happens!
For years, companies have talked and acted on this product commandment of ‘listening to your customer.’ But, in today’s digital economy, we are going to see ABA facing the problem of managing uncertainty across many frontiers—just listening alone is not enough. The customer’s area of expertise is not in abstraction, interface design, and software development – they won’t make directly-useful requests. As Steve Jobs nicely puts it, “It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.” The Product Manager’s Malkovich Bias is when we limit ourselves to just asking what the customer wants and getting back to our development teams to tell the story that is primarily woven around two themes – What and How (we would build it?)
Someone can argue that isn’t this being customer-driven and outside-in? Theoretically, there is nothing wrong with this approach, but Product Managers miss out on an opportunity to innovate – to invent something valuable – by focusing on an inside-out description of a problem manifestation. As a Product Manager, you should be able to synthesise the Why and Not Just What the customer wants—the uncanny ability to see the unknown or unstated need by the customer is what matters. Every Product Managers or Product Owners (in an Agile world) should start by recognizing that your right job is to create a customer (not your solution). Customers are results or outcome driven. Look for a job they are trying to get done (jobs-to-be-done) and study how they are getting it done (existing alternatives).