Forget about the product

Forget about the product
Team photo from the workshop. Everybody seems happy with the exercise!

Last week at Narrator, we did an interesting product thinking exercise that reminded me of the incredible value of constantly going back to the customer and reasoning from there, so I thought I’d share what it was and why it ended up being so valuable for us.

Here’s how it went. We got the team together and focused our attention not on what Narrator does as a product and what our customers do with it, as we usually do during product meetings, but on the life of our customers without Narrator; on what they’re trying to do with data; on what they want to accomplish. We imagined that Narrator didn’t exist and concentrated on the “upper system,” the process of data analysis that our tool is only a part of.

After the team spent half an hour concentrating on this “upper system,” without thinking about Narrator at all, we started getting all sorts of exciting ideas and questions. We ideated a few use cases we hadn’t thought of before. We got a better grasp of the problems our customers are trying to solve. Finally, we better understood how what we’ve built so far connects to the rest of the data analysis puzzle.

Why was it so valuable for us?

Before you build something, all you think about is the customer because you literally got nothing else on your plate. But after you created the product (esp if the product is already a few years old, like Narrator), you cannot help but begin directing your attention to the product at the expense of directing attention to the customer and what they’re trying to do, as the number of work hours you have per day remains the same. At some point, it is easy to get so lost in what the product is doing that you completely forget what the customer does or wants to do, which is always changing. As a result, as it happens with so many companies, you may be left behind and become irrelevant.

That’s why an exercise like this, a focused effort of forgetting about the product and directing our attention back to the customer, was so valuable for us. I hope it’ll be helpful for you as well, esp if you’re 2-5y into the game already.

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